The New York Islanders are now over a week into life without Anders Lee in the lineup.
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, Lee is out for the remainder of the season with an ACL injury he suffered on March 11 against the New Jersey Devils. The injury sidelined Lee in the middle of a strong campaign for the captain, which had him tied for the team lead in goals with 12 and on a line that had all three players within the top five of team scoring.
Off the ice, Lee has been described as the heartbeat of the team, and for an organization that values character equally as much as it values talent that says a lot.
“Anders is such a big part of our team,” Matt Martin said before the Islanders 6-1 win over Philadelphia on Saturday. “He plays in a lot of situations for us, one. From a leadership standpoint as well.”
So where do the islanders go from here? The Isles have gone 3-2 in their first five games since Lee has been out and Islanders head coach Barry Trotz mixed up the lines on Saturday to help snap their two-game skid.
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Even before the Islanders dropped two in a row, it was evident that they were feeling Lee’s absence. It’s become clear that the Islanders will need to bring in some help from the outside, and general manager Lou Lamoriello made it clear that the priority is to find a scoring winger before the NHL trade deadline.
“Whatever we can do to make ourselves better we will be doing that. It certainly changes our focus,” Lamoriello said earlier this week. “You lose a player like that, the role he plays, our leading goal scorer up until his injury, so if we can get ourselves better we will, but we will not do something just for the sake of doing it.”
With that in mind, who could Lamoriello be targeting at the trade deadline? Here’s a look at three players that the Islanders GM could be working to bring to Long Island.
Whenever you start to look at possible trade scenarios for the Islanders, Kyle Palmieri is among the top names mentioned. That’s for good reason.
When it comes to players that fit the culture that Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello have built on Long Island, Palmieri is a guy that fits that mold. The 30-year-old forward is a player that has consistently scored 20 or more goals in five seasons with New Jersey and he can be utilized in different roles when needed. During his time in the Garden State, he’s become a trusted player in all situations, which is a skill set that Trotz values very highly.
While Palmieri’s scoring numbers may be down, it hasn’t helped that he has been playing on one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL. Heading into Sunday’s game with Pittsburgh, New Jersey had only scored 69 goals in 28 games this year.
At a cap hit of $4.65 million that would also fit neatly into the Islanders’ current cap situation now that they have Lee’s $7 million to play with. And the cost for Palmieri would likely give New York the option to go after additional assets, whether that be a depth forward or defenseman. His status as a pending UFA also means the Islanders won’t be on the hook for his contract next year when they will still be in a crunch to stay under the salary cap.
The addition of Rakell would be an interesting one for the Islanders since he would come over to Long Island with another year still left on his contract. The 27-year-old has shown he can be a 20-plus goal scorer and he has done so three times in seven full seasons with the Anaheim Ducks and he has been a consistent 40-plus point produced in his last five years.
There appears to be some interest in Rakell around the league, in part due to his team-friendly $3.79 cap hit he has. The Islanders would be able to fit him under the cap this year, but Lamoriello would also have to take into consideration the amount of room they’d have next year for him.
And what exactly would the price be for Rakell? TSN reported last week that two general managers told them it would be high.
NYI Hockey Now had been told by an NHL source earlier this week that there were some questions about what kind of fit Hall would be inside the Islanders dressing room and how he would fit into the culture. Still, it would be crazy not to at least include him in the discussion of players that could replace Lee. Hall is a goalscorer and boy would it be something to watch him on a line with Mathew Barzal.
He is having a down year, but that seems to be the trend for anyone that the Islanders might make a move for. Hall has two goals and 16 points for Buffalo this year, but remains the top trade deadline prize in a lot of people’s eyes.
Skillwise there is no question what Hall can do and on a one-year deal in Buffalo, he would come to the Islanders as a rental, albeit an expensive one. Plenty of teams are sure to line up in the hopes of acquiring Hall’s services and it could take a first-round pick from the Islanders to get any deal done to bring Hall to downstate New York. With an $8 million cap hit, the Islanders would still need to move another contract off the books and they would have no room for any other deals at the deadline.