While surrounding rivals continue to make moves, the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Islanders have yet to make a big splash as the NHL’s Monday trade deadline continues to draw near.
The second-place Washington Capitals, who are nipping at the Islanders’ heels in the standings, have added veteran forward Carl Hagelin and defenseman Nick Jensen in the past week while the third-place Columbus Blue Jackets have been the biggest buyers of the winter.
A team once believed to be sellers at the trade deadline, the Blue Jackets shocked the NHL world by acquiring the expiring contracts of forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, both from the Ottawa Senators.
Duchene was one of the largest names available on the trade market and one of the most closely-linked names with the Islanders. The aggressive moves suggest that Columbus could hold on to Artemi Panarin, who will also be a free agent at the end of the season, to fuel a Stanley Cup or bust mentality for the final months of the season. However, Aaron Portzline of the Athletic reported on Sunday that the Blue Jackets are still taking calls in an attempt to get a “mammoth” return for Panarin.
The moves came at quite a price for Columbus, who gave up a grand total of Anthony Duclair, two prospects, a 2019 first-round draft pick, and a pair of second-round picks in 2020 and 2021. That kind of return could have deterred Lou Lamoriello from nabbing Duchene for the Islanders, especially if he can sign the 28-year-old in free agency this summer.
It’s a well-known fact that the Islanders need an offensive spark, especially on the power play considering Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle are the only players with more than three goals on the man advantage this season. Yet there is a notion that a big trade could mess with the chemistry of a team that might not be the most talented on paper but is finding ways to win thanks to a well-organized defense and stellar goaltending.
Even head coach Barry Trotz somewhat balked at the notion of the Islanders making a deal before Monday afternoon.
“I think there’s not going to be a lot of movement for us,” Trotz said. “We feel we’ve got a good core group and we’ve got good chemistry in that and Lou is working the phones and trying to improve our hockey team… He’s working diligently to try and improve our hockey club and if there’s a right fit, he’ll make the move.”
While Mark Stone, another Senator, is still out on the trade market, the Islanders are reportedly in on Florida Panthers forward Mike Hoffman, per the Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta.
Hoffman is having the best season of his career during his first campaign with the Panthers. In 60 games he has 26 goals and 25 assists, just three goals off his former career high of 29 tallies.
What might be the most attractive part of his game for Islanders fans is his production on the power play as he’s accrued 11 goals and 15 assists this season on the man advantage. That would by far become the Islanders’ best option for a team whose power play is ranked 24th in the NHL.
The 29-year-old is under contract until the end of the 2019-20 season, which means the asking price for the Islanders would be sizable as it would likely be a package that includes draft picks, a young NHL-ready player and a prospect. But for a team that continues to struggle putting pucks in the net on a consistent basis, it might be a necessary price to pay.