Once believed to be buyers, the New York Islanders were quiet at the NHL’s Monday trade deadline, opting not to make a single move to try and upgrade their Metropolitan Division-leading roster.
It’s much of the same from an organization that is under new leadership in Hall-of-Fame executive Lou Lamoriello. The Islanders have not made a notable move at the trade deadline since 2007 when they acquired Ryan Smyth from the Edmonton Oilers.
Smyth played just 18 regular-season games plus a first-round postseason series before signing the Colorado Avalanche the following offseason.
Lamoriello’s inactivity indicates that the Islanders were comfortable enough moving forward with the current group that has unexpectedly gotten them to the top-three of the Eastern Conference. The structure instituted by first-year head coach Barry Trotz has seen New York display the best defense — behind stellar goaltending — in the NHL after having the league’s worst unit last year.
The Islanders’ largest issue has been its offense, which is among the worst in the East. Only two teams in the conference have scored fewer goals than the Islanders while their power play is ranked 24th in the NHL at just 16.9-percent.
While Lamoriello is known for keeping his cards close to the vest, the Islanders were linked with some of the biggest names on the market, including Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin, Mark Stone, and Mike Hoffman.
Duchene joined Panarin in Columbus with the Blue Jackets while Stone was sent to the Vegas Golden Knights and Hoffman stayed in Florida with the Panthers.
Steep asking prices for each player, three of whom will be unrestricted free agents this summer, seemed to be reason enough for the Islanders to hesitate. Giving up a first-round pick in 2019 would have left them with no draft picks until the fourth round this summer.
A prospective deal also would have forced Lamoriello to part with young, blue-chip talents like Kieffer Bellows, Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, and even Josh Ho-Sang.
Instead, the Islanders are seeing two veterans return from injury in forward Andrew Ladd and defenseman Thomas Hickey.
Ladd, who has underwhelmed throughout his seven-year contract has plenty of Stanley Cup experience, winning a pair of titles with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. He is expected to slot in beside Mathew Barzal on the Islanders’ second line, which has been forced to roll out perennial fourth-liner Tom Kuhnhackl lately.
When healthy and on his game, this can be a 20-to-25-goal scorer. The Islanders will hope Ladd can produce that kind of output besides their best playmaker in Barzal.
Hickey is poised to step in for Scott Mayfield — who is having a career year — for Tuesday night’s game against the Flames.