Believe it or not, the NHL preseason starts up in approximately three weeks.
And while the rest of the Metropolitan Division has reloaded this offseason — especially the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers — the Islanders are in a precarious position.
The team that shocked the hockey world last season — making the Eastern Conference semifinals when they were expected to finish near the bottom of the standings — has yet to address its largest need.
Barry Trotz’s defense-first team was one of the lowest-scoring teams in the East, lacking a bonafide sniper.
General manager Lou Lamoriello came up empty over the summer when Artemi Panarin — the Islanders’ main and only target — chose to take less money and join the Rangers.
It’s left them with a virtually unchanged offense. The only real addition was the signing of Derick Brassard as a third-line center last week.
But there is still time to make a big splash and situation brewing in Winnipeg might provide the Islanders with a golden opportunity to get the pure goal scorer that they need.
Star right-winger Patrik Laine has heard virtually nothing from the Jets this summer, which has thrown his future with the team into uncertain waters.
The restricted free agent has admitted that his future with the team is uncertain and does not expect to have a contract by training camp.
Rumors continued to swirl this week when Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek told FAN590 that “there is a feeling around the NHL that Patrik Laine has fallen out of favor,” with the Jets.
That could mean that the club is looking to trade goal-scorer. And the Islanders are a perfect trade candidate given their depth of young talent and defenseman.
What would Laine’s cost be?
Laine experienced a sizable regression in his game last season. After scoring 36 and 44 goals in his first two NHL seasons, he was off to a barnstorming start in 2018-19 when he recorded 23 goals in his first 32 games.
Then came his first real, severe slump. The Finland native scored just seven times in his final 50 games, making him nothing short of a liability.
With a one-dimensional game, Laine doesn’t provide much in terms of backchecking or defensive effort. That obviously wouldn’t fly in the Islanders’ structured system under Trotz, which would put a limit on what the Jets would get in return.
It would be an awful lot for the Islanders to give up some of their top prospects like forwards Oliver Wahlstrom or Keiffer Bellows, along with defenseman Noah Dobson — who is ready to make the jump to the NHL.
Talents like that would be a centerpiece of what Winnipeg would ask for, most likely. The Islanders could try to offer defensemen such as Nick Leddy and Thomas Hickey, along with draft picks, but it would probably take more than that.
It’s worth noting, however, that Laine is still just 21 years old. Which might make the gamble of giving up a young talent worth it.
Defensive responsibilities can be taught, especially when working under a management system that includes a Hall-of-Famer in Lamoriello and one of the greatest coaches in NHL history in Trotz.
Then put Laine on a first-line flanking a playmaker like Mathew Barzal, and the results could be magical for the Islanders.
If things grow more contentious in Winnipeg, it’s something to at least consider.