The New York Islanders are in some serious need of help on defense.
With Calvin de Haan out for the season and Johnny Boychuk week-to-week with a lower-body injury, the Islanders’ blue line resistance is almost invisible. While the goaltending has been struggling as well, the defense is a big reason why the team has allowed 144 goals through 40 games, second-worst in the NHL.
Their play is almost wasting an explosive offense that contains one of the best first lines in the league with Anders Lee, John Tavares and Josh Bailey. Lee is third in the NHL with 24 goals while Tavares is tied for fourth with 21 of his own. Bailey is tied with Jakub Voracek for the league lead in assists with 38.
Not to mention second-line center Mathew Barzal is one of the front-runners for the Calder Trophy, the NHL’s Rookie of the Year award.
In order for the Islanders to remain in playoff contention in a hotly-contested Metropolitan Division, general manager Garth Snow needs to shore up his defense by making a move before the league’s Feb. 26 trade deadline.
But who could be out there? Let’s take a look at possible defensive trade targets that could emerge over the next seven weeks:
Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
Green would likely be nothing more than a rental considering he will hit free agency following the 2017-18 season. He’ll be coming off a contract in which he made $6 million per season, a cap hit that could prove too much for the Islanders.
At the end of the day though, the Islanders don’t necessarily need Green’s style of play. The 32-year-old is more of an offensive defenseman and the Islanders need a physical, stay-at-home presence to clog up their zone.
Erik Gudbranson, Vancouver Canucks
Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman told Sportsnet 960 in Calgary that he believes that the Canucks are looking to deal Gudbranson, who will be a free agent this offseason, before the February trade deadline.
The 25-year-old would be a much-needed addition to an undersized, soft Islanders blue line as he stands at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. He can throw the body and fists around and isn’t afraid to get in front of shots to support his goaltender.
Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings
Martinez is a veteran defenseman who has shown a knack for limiting mistakes, almost playing safe. While that might sound too conservative, that kind of mindset could be just what the Islanders need. New York is a team that loves to build their attack out of their own defensive zone and there are plenty of occasions in which defensemen turn the puck over in dangerous positions trying to transition to offense.
The 30-year-old can move the puck well but is not extremely physical. Regardless, a smart defenseman that has won in the past could be a nice addition to the Islanders’ blue line. His name has cropped up in trade talks throughout 2017, but that is because there was a concern that the Kings didn’t have enough scoring. At the moment, they do. But if the scoring dries up, they could look to move Martinez for offensive support.
Luca Sbisa, Vegas Golden Knights
Sbisa’s presence on the trade market comes down to Vegas’ philosophical beliefs. Will they want to keep things intact and continue this dream inaugural season that has them in contention for a President’s Trophy? Or will they want to look toward the future and deal some of their impending free agents?
Sbisa is one of those impending free agents that the Golden Knights could try and get young talent for. And the Islanders might be willing to give up a youngster or two in order to get the physical defenseman that can turn a game on its head with one big hit.