Even though the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline isn’t for another couple of weeks, now is the time for teams to start deciding where they stand. Do they stand pat? Do they improve or blow everything up? The New York Islanders are no exception in this situation.
Well, except for the little fact that this deadline may look a lot different.
The Islanders, who were well-regarded heading into this season after a deep playoff run last season, find themselves in a rut. They are third-to-last in the Metro. They are 19 points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. Their offense is one of the weakest offenses in all of the NHL. Even though they have plenty of games in hand (the most in the NHL), they still have a tremendous amount of ground to cover. What should they do? How aggressive should they be at the trade deadline?
With the deadline on March 21st, the Islanders still have time–time to think, time to plan, and time to turn things around. Until then, they have (and have had) a crowded schedule.
The Isles finished last month with a five-game west-coast road trip that included games against the Los Angeles Kings, Colorado Avalanche, San Jose Sharks, Seattle Kraken and Anaheim Ducks. They finished that stretch 2-2-1 which isn’t terrible, but still not enough to make a real difference.
Their March schedule leading up to the deadline is a little more home-friendly, however. They play 11 games, seven of which are at UBS Arena. Things won’t be completely easy, though. The Isles will have to play the Avalanche again, the St. Louis Blues and the Columbus Blue Jackets, the latter of which is almost directly above them in the wild-card standings. To make matters worse, two of the away games are against the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals–neither of which will be an easy matchup.
So far, they lost 4-3 to the Vancouver Canucks and got a nice 2-1 win against the Blues. Their next game is tomorrow, a rematch against the Avalanche. With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the Isles’ options.
Islanders’ First Option: Accept Defeat
A lot can happen in less than a month, but if the Isles don’t improve then this might be their only option. Considering they recently lost 3-2 at home in a shootout to the lowly Montréal Canadiens and their current place in the standings, they may already be considering a white flag.
The Isles could accept defeat in two ways: by blowing everything up or by doing nothing at all. Even though the team might be strong on paper, becoming sellers would mean accepting that last year was an anomaly and essentially starting over. It would be hard for fans to swallow, but there are pieces that could be moved.
Cal Clutterbuck, Zach Parise and Andy Greene are just some Isles players who will be unrestricted free agents after this season. While they may not be THE most attractive trade pieces, they could still be dealt with for some return. All three of these players are veterans who could act as good depth pieces on contending teams. Besides them, you have someone like Josh Bailey who, despite being a fan favorite, could be dealt to clear up cap space. With two more years on his contract, the return probably wouldn’t be that great. However, clearing that space could be beneficial in the future.
In any case, it would be useful for the Isles to get as many returns as they could from these players. Plus, the Isles have the oldest team in the NHL. Accepting a rebuild could do wonders in making their team younger.
Islanders’ Second Option: Try to Contend
Even though the Islanders are not in an ideal spot, they have the most games in hand of any team. And, with a crowded March, they could use those games to propel up the standings. If the Isles manage to find some sort of groove and launch themselves back into playoff contention, then they could look to bolstering their team.
Goal-scoring has been a major problem so far this season so an improvement on offense would be ideal. Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes is a big name that will most likely be traded so the Isles could take a swing at him. He had 18 goals and 23 assists last season and is still only 23 years old. Even though it would take a lot to move him, he’s an option.
If they wanted someone else for a lower price, the Isles could look to Montréal. Having sent Tyler Toffoli to Calgary, chances are the Canadiens aren’t done selling yet. The Isles could trade for Jeff Petry who, while much older than Chychrun, would provide both offensive output and another veteran presence. He had 12 goals and 30 assists last season which, while not otherworldly, would still be beneficial to an offense-starved team.
Realistically, however, I don’t see them buying at the trade deadline. Even if they do improve, I think they will focus more on selling whatever players they can.
How Aggressive Should the Islanders Be?
In the end, I don’t think the Islanders will improve enough to contend. Despite many games in hand, I don’t think they have the team to make such a comeback.
Therefore, I think the Islanders should focus on selling at the deadline, starting with Cal Clutterbuck and perhaps Semyon Varlamov as well. Even if the returns aren’t substantial, they would still go a long way towards bolstering the Islanders’ farm system. Additionally, valuable cap space would be cleared up, giving the Islanders more money to put towards extending their young core of players.
It might be a tough pill to swallow, but the sooner it’s accepted the better. The Islanders will not be buyers at this deadline and should instead just focus on the future.