What Happened at the Deadline?
Today was Lou Lamoriello’s first trade deadline day with the NY Islanders. From all indications he pushed a few offers, but could not find the appropriate deal to add to the Burger Barn’s menu. Something that has happened in Islanders Country a lot over the past decade of deadlines.
Mike also details the day on the The Isles Faithful Podcast Episode 25.
The last splash was in 2006 when Garth Snow sent a bag of non-magic beans to Edmonton for Ryan Smyth. What he ended up with was poke check into the playoffs, and first round ouster by a superior Buffalo team. He didn’t give up much, and upon Captain Canada’s teary-eyed departure he didn’t gain much in return. Much like that day an adequate bargain was obtained. The Islanders gave up nothing, and got nothing in return.Embed from Getty Images
Why Did it Happen?
Lou has a relatively young first place team that is buying into a new system. They’re not only in first, but they are on a post learning curve trajectory that should keep them there. Even if other teams have improved themselves at the deadline, the Islanders GAVE NOTHING AWAY.
Their biggest assets are still mysteries. But what we do know of them is that they all fit into the current scheme. Most would think that Anthony Beauvillier would have been on the block for some of the bigger fish. But I also assume that there would have had to be some kind of extension behind a deal involving Beau. Lou would not have given away a 20G RFA with center potential for a rental.
The Islanders have been short on right handed defensemen for as long as I’ve been a fan… and that’s a pretty long time. The other two items on most price lists would have been Dobson and/or Wilde. You can flip a coin (it had better be three sided) because one of Pulock, Dobson or Wilde will be on a Norris list within five years. It’s too early to tell which one of the “prospects” will be on that list, so they’re both too valuable to be traded for a rental.
As I pointed out earlier this year, there were some names that were most likely available. Lou just couldn’t find the right mix of picks, those prospects, a target and a seller’s consent.
Where Are They Now?
The Islanders lead the Washington Capitals by two points, and have two games in hand. At this point it’s basically a three-horse race for first with Columbus making a late run. The Blue Jackets helped themselves immensely by not giving up any important roster players, and acquiring Matt Duchene, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid. This very well could become a dogfight or a walkover in the next two weeks. The Isles’ schedule is littered with division rivals and they have two more games with Washington (3/1, @ 4/6) and Columbus (3/11 and @ 3/26). Those games will be paramount. The final game against Washington could determine home team advantage for the first round.
Where Do They Go From Here?
There are a few paths they can go by, but in the long run… they need to think of building a team for their new arena. The first step in that is seeing what you have on the current roster.
Some Questions About The Future
Where does Anthony Beauvillier fit in the Islanders’ future? Is he a top six wing? Can he be a bottom six center? Can he eventually replace a guy like Val Filppula? Can he become the next Butch Goring? Can he win a face-off? Will they ever use him to kill penalties?
Will Josh Ho-Sang ever get his act together? I’m not one who is going to say I know ANYTHING about Josh’s situation beyond what out on the surface. The young man has amazing talent, and when he throws that on the ice with full focus and the full effort of his physical abilities he’s a force. When he loses that focus, he has had some issues that keep him off the ice all together. I personally want to see him with guys like Ladd, Lee, Nelson and Beau. He has to earn NHL playing time to do that. Maybe there is one last gasp this season to see if they can put some trust in him. It will make a big difference to his first RFA deal, what they do with Eberle, and whether he is an Islander after June.
Is Michael Dal Colle a full time NHL player. He had a very good NHL showing. I think he earned a full time NHL gig next year. He might even make a cameo later in the season and possibly the playoffs. Does he have a “beast mode”. He certainly has showed it in the AHL, and he has shown plenty of “moments of confidence” against NHL vets. It will be fun to watch him evolve as a player.
Off The IR
How do they re-assemble the puzzle with their returning pieces? I’m gonna push for the BrockLeeBar line until it happens, or they give us BrockHoLee. Lee and Nelson have been very good with Jordan Eberle, but they are not creating scoring chances at a first line clip. The Isles have been pretty good at 5v5 scoring (but not defending) over the past 4 years. They need a number one line again.
This year, neither top line has really stood out as a scoring threat. The Nelson line, however, has scored more than they have given up, and that is a rarity in recent Isles history. They need to shuffle that a bit. Andew Ladd will help that. I’m sure Trotz will be reluctant to break up what works with Lee+Nelson+Eberle. I expect to see it eventually. It could be a big boost in the second season.
Hickey will eventually be paired with an recent partner. It could be with Mayfield as a solid enough third pair. When that happens you can create a single offensive pairing that can defend the neutral and defensive zones as well. Everybody that has watched Bridgeport games for the last four years knew it had to happen eventually. Pulock and Toews for 15 minutes a night at 5v5. Make it happen!
We still have a handful of very important unrestricted free agents. Lou has passed the sell by date. Now he has a few months to sign them. No panic. My opinion… in order of importance.
Anders Lee. He’s their captain. He’s our captain. Don’t let two consecutive July’s mark the Islanders losing a captain. This one would be worse than the last one. All evidence points to Lee being an Islander through and through… so it would be on Lou if they lost him.
Robin Lehner was the biggest question mark when the season started. He has become the biggest exclamation point. He should be part of their goaltending future.
Brock Nelson. Even I thought he was a trade deadline goner in October. But Brock+structure+team buy in has been the biggest surprise of the season. If anybody thought in October that Lee, Nelson and Eberle would be the #1 line of a first place team raise your hand. Yeah, I didn’t think so. Brock has quietly (maybe invisibly) contributed 20G a year for 5 years. Now he’s in the locomotive, certainly not a passenger. He’s going to want conductor pay. Given the market for top six centers that can shoot and create from the forecheck, he’s going to get it. This is going to be a tough negotiation, but I think they come out with a solid 5 year deal.
Val Filppula. The Isles will have almost as many signed options at third line center next year as they did last year. None. I advocated for some AHL training for Beau, but that wasn’t popular. Now here we are. Val has been great. Way better than expected. They do not have another option ready in Bridgeport. Otto Koivula will get games next year, probably. You can’t rely on him yet. I think Val will be an early July signing after Lou gets to troll the waters a bit. If he lands Matt Duchene they are done. They have the resources to do it.
Post Apocalypse Outlook
All in all I’d say the Islanders came out of this okay. They go into the playoffs with a few new weapons to deploy. They also get to battle test some players with very little or no playoff experience. If they come out of it better players win win. If they win win, then Yes Yes Yes!!!