By Christian Arnold and Stefen Rosner
The trade of Johnny Boychuk’s contract on Thursday opened up the door for some more cap flexibility for the New York slanders and the chance to accrue cap space before the trade deadline in the spring.
The Islanders now have around $2 million in cap space after the deal and that will accrue to be worth as much as $10 million by the deadline, according to Puckpedia. The deal benefited both the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres, as general manager Lou Lamoriello pointed out during a conference call on Thursday.
With more space, the Islanders still have a glaring need that should be addressed at some point this season. As NYI Hockey Now outlined this week, the New York Islanders have felt the loss of Nick Leddy through their first eight games of the season.
Bringing someone in that can help fill the gap that Leddy left is sure to be at the top of Lamoriello’s to-do list as the season continues. When the time does come, here are five names that Lamoriello should be keeping an eye on.
At the top of the Islanders list, along with many other NHL teams, should be Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. Despite going pointless in Arizona’s first 10 games this season, the Boca Raton native is an elite defenseman. Shadowed by former Arizona captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Chychrun has done damage on both sides of the ice, more so over the last few seasons
The 23-year old scored 18 goals and picked up 23 assists in the shortened 56-game campaign last season, after putting up 12 goals and 14 assists in 63 games back in 2019-20. He’s averaged 23:09 minutes per game over his six-year career and would help the Islanders shore up the left side of their defense. Chychrun also plays on Arizona’s top power-play and penalty-kill units, as the Islanders could always use another weapon on the power play.
Arizona is in the midst of a full-on rebuild (currently 0-10-1), and Chychrun could, and quite frankly should be at the epicenter of that, but if anyone could pry him away, it would be Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello. There are few little details on what the asking price for Chychrun could be, picks, picks, and more picks would surely factor into the equation.
Chychrun has three years remaining on his six-year deal, which carries an average annual value of $4.6 million. In the last two years of his contract, 2022-23 & 2023-24, Chychrun will have a Moderate-No Trade Clause.
It appears the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the market to potentially deal a defenseman, according to multiple reports, and Travis Dermott is one of them. He would fit the bill for what the New York Islanders are in the market for and shouldn’t cost the team too much to make a deal. At 24-years old, Dermott can be a top-four defenseman on Long Island and could fill the Nick Leddy role that the Islanders have struggled to replicate.
Last season, Dermott had the second most zone exits per 60 with 11.07 which was only slightly behind fellow defender Morgan Reilly, according to All Three Zones by Corey Sznajeder. Through 10 appearances this season, Dermott has one assist and is a plus-1. As Hockey Now colleague Scott Cullen noted, Dermott has faired well as a third pair defenseman alongside Rasmus Sandin 5-on-5, with Toronto controlling 61.1% of shot attempts and 71.6% of expected goals.
Dermott’s price shouldn’t be too high at the moment and with a $1.5 million cap hit, he’s a player the Islanders could bring in sooner rather than later without much issue cap-wise. Dermott also has one more year left on his contract.
Bringing in a player like Mark Giordano would be big for the New York Islanders, if he ends up on the market. Despite being 38 years old, Giordano is still playing to a high level and given his leadership on and off the ice, was named the first captain in Kraken history. He has six points (two goals, four assists) in 11 games this season.
While it is never ideal to move a captain, Giordano is set to become an unrestricted free agent and if Seattle isn’t a playoff team come the trade deadline Ron Francis could look to make a move. Giordano would be a pure rental for the Islanders and could serve as another experienced player for Islanders to add. Giordano is playing on the right side on the top pairing with Vince Dunn, but has the ability to play the left side as well, which is a role he has on their top power-play unit.
The Islanders are in need of a left-side defenseman and Giordano’s versatility would be an added bonus. The Toronto-native is playing over 20 minutes a night this season and has not shown a drop-off in his play. He’s been ultra-reliable over his career and would fit into the Islanders’ system quite nicely.
Giordano carries a cap hit of $6.75 million, with salary being retained a possibility as always. At $6.75 million, the Islanders would need to send a combination of players to remain cap compliant. Those players would be players mentioned in the potential Chychrun deal, along with potentially Sebastian Aho ($725,000) for finishing touches.
The 27-year-old defenseman is someone the Islanders likely have already looked into acquiring this past offseason. Hampus Lindholm will become an unrestricted free agent come season’s end and will more than likely be on the move if extension talks are not in the works with Anaheim.
Lindholm only played 18 of his team’s 56 games last season due to a fractured wrist, but in 2019-20 Lindholm picked up 22 points in 55 games and was on pace for around 33 points (career-high 31 in 2017-18) given an 82-game campaign. Lindholm slots in on Anaheim’s second penalty kill unit but can play on the power play as well.
The asking price for Lindholm could include a first-round pick. Depending on the possibility of an extension that could be a tough ask for the Islanders.