Each passing day toward the NHL’s Feb. 25 trade deadline provides a clearer indication that the New York Islanders are in need of an added offensive punch.
There is no shortage of targets on the market with two of the most intriguing names coming out of Ottawa.
The futures of forwards Matt Duchene and Mark Stone are still unclear with the Senators, the worst team in the NHL who does not own its first-round draft pick this year. While there have been talks of extensions, unrestricted free agency awaits this summer for both goal scorers. With the Senators not going anywhere anytime soon, dealing either Duchene or Stone could help replenish their assets for a future rebuild on the trade market.
Both Senators are having career years — Duchene has 25 goals and 28 assists while Stone leads Ottawa with 26 goals and 31 assists — and are going to fetch a nice return even if they are just a rental.
Appearing on NBC Sports Wednesday night, TSN’s Bob McKenzie admitted that he believed that both will likely be traded or at least dangled in trade talks. The Athletic’s Arthur Staple added that it would take a first-round pick, a young NHL-ready talent, and one top prospect, similar to the kind of return the Columbus Blue Jackets are looking for regarding Artemi Panarin.
That would likely mean the Islanders would have to give up a current young winger such as Anthony Beauvillier or Michael Dall Colle, along with a top prospect like Oliver Wahlstrom or Kieffer Bellows.
If Lou Lamoriello believes the Islanders can compete for the Cup this year with one more scorer like Duchene or Stone and is confident he can be re-signed, it could be a risk worth taking. But New York stands to lose an awful lot if they pull the trigger on one of these deals and are not able to retain the player this summer.
Despite holding the top spot in the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders rank 14th of 16 teams in the Eastern Conference along with a power play that is 26th in the entire league with a measly 16.07-percent conversion rate. Through 56 games, they still don’t have a 20-goal scorer while Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey are the only players who have hit the 40-point mark.
New York’s calling card under head coach Barry Trotz has been defense and goaltending, a unit that has done a complete 180 since conceding a league-high 296 goals last season. The goaltending duo of Thomas Greiss and Robin Lehner are the best in the NHL, which has provided a sturdy foundation for the team to build a contender on.
When the Islanders get an average night of offensive production, they are almost unbeatable, winning 27 of 30 games in which they’ve scored at least three goals. However, there have been considerable issues, especially as of late, getting to that three-goal mark as the Islanders have been held to two or fewer goals in nine of their last 14 games.
It’s a testament to their defense and goaltending that they’ve been able to take 20 of a possible 28 points during that stretch.
But as the Islanders enter the stretch run and with the trade deadline looming, the team is in need of a top-six forward that can spark the offense and take some pressure off the back lines of defense.