It would be difficult for New York Islanders fans to complain after the 23-game start they've had to the 2017-18 season. Just two points out of first place in the Metropolitan Division, the Islanders are tied for the third-best scoring offense in the NHL with 84 goals for.
If there is one thing that is in need of significant improvement though, it's the defense. An inconsistent unit has allowed 51 even-strength goals, tied sixth-worst in the NHL as head coach Doug Weight has had to shuffle his second and third defensive pairings beneath Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy due to inconsistencies from the likes of Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey and Dennis Seidenberg.
A struggling franchise in the southwest could present the Islanders with a golden opportunity to add on a star defenseman, which could do wonders to New York's postseason push this season.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been wasting away with the Arizona Coyotes over the first eight years of his NHL career. Despite no playoff appearances and just two seasons with a positive plus-minus rating, the 26-year-old Ekman-Larsson has finished in the top 20 of the Norris Trophy voting as the league's top defenseman four times. On two of those occasions, he was in the top 10.
Signed through next season, Ekman-Larsson is not likely to re-sign with the Coyotes once his contract expires, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
That means the Coyotes will probably look to trade the talented defenseman in order to get something in return to help continue their rebuild.
It would cost the Islanders a lot, per Brooks, which might deter general manager Garth Snow from making the deal should he actually inquire about Ekman Larsson:
"It could cost the Islanders either Josh Ho-Sang or Anthony Beauvillier, perhaps Brock Nelson, maybe Ryan Pulock or Scott Mayfield, and probably one of the two first-rounders (their own plus Calgary’s) they own in the 2018 draft."
Things are going well for the Islanders now, but if the offense begins to slump and the defense continues to struggle, it might force Snow to dissect the market in order to maintain his team's status as a playoff contender.