With the NHL Trade Deadline quickly approaching us, the New York Islanders still need to add some depth to their team.
The Islanders have been one of the most captivating teams to watch this season as they have ascended to the top of the Metropolitan Division with a 39-19-2 record. With the club’s high-octane offense, much-improved defense and solid goaltending, it’s hard to believe that this team isn’t for real.
Whereas the long-suffering franchise got only a brief tease of playoff action during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, I could really see them do some damage this postseason. The Islanders are relocating to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center next season, and I can’t think of a more fitting way to say goodbye to their old home, Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders are buyers at this years’ NHL Trade Deadline. Though the Islanders boast impressive forward depth, coach Jack Capuano’s squad could use some help in shoring up what has been a woeful penalty-killing unit. The Islanders are 29th in the league with a concerning 74.8 percent success rate through 60 games.
Who could help? Pending unrestricted free agents Daniel Winnik (Toronto) and Erik Condra (Ottawa) are both versatile and cost-effective. Plenty of teams are interested in Winnik, which could drive up the price as the deadline nears and make Condra a more realistic option.
The one wild card here is the status of top-line winger Kyle Okposo, who is recovering from an eye injury. If his rehab does not go as planned, that could change the Islanders’ approach, though 24-year-old Anders Lee has been sensational in stepping into that power forward role.
Though the Islanders barely hovered above the cap floor for years with a penny-pinching philosophy that drove fans mad, general manager Garth Snow has since shown a willingness to spend money and surround superstar John Tavares with some quality players. The Islanders still have plenty of flexibility in cap space to make some moves, with approximately $5.75 million in room.
That gives Snow an upper hand on some of the other top teams in the Eastern Conference, that are limited by their finances. In the Metropolitan Division, both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers are feeling the crunch. The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens are also limited in the types of deals they can make, with the Tampa Bay Lightning being the only other real contender in the conference with the same sort of maneuverability.
Take a bow, Garth. For as much criticism as he endured in recent years, he did a heck of a job this past summer in improving his team. He acquired the rights to and then signed veteran goaltender Jaroslav Halak, bolstering a position that has long been the team’s Achilles’ heel. But Snow really knocked it out of the park when he traded for defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy on the same day back in early October, providing his defense with a big upgrade.
The prevailing thought is that it could be a quiet deadline for the Islanders, with Snow having already been so aggressive in the offseason. Considering how much the penalty-killing unit has struggled, people are expecting the Islanders to make some moves before the 3:00 p.m. ET deadline on March 2.