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Islanders Likely Trade Deadline Scenario, 3 Depth Options



New York Islanders, Dmitry Kulikov

The New York Islanders’ position in the standings changes from one day to the next, given how tight the wild-card race is in the East.

We are now just four days away from the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline, and for now, the Islanders are occupying the top wild-card spot with a three-point lead, with their foes having games in hand.

Without Mathew Barzal, who is out week-to-week, the Islanders’ chances are scarce. General manager Lou Lamoriello has a few unrestricted free agents that could potentially provide substantial returns if he chooses to sell.

Here’s Why Islanders Should Sell Regardless of Standings Situation

However, despite what may seem like the right decision for the Islanders, given how many holes in the current lineup due to injuries, Lamoriello will likely continue to show loyalty to this group and add if he can.

An NHL source has told NYI Hockey Now that he would be “shocked” if Lamoriello sells.

After the nightmarish 2021-22 campaign, Lamoriello kept the group together, adding just Alexander Romanov over the summer to help solidify the backend.

When the opportunity presented itself ahead of All-Star week, Lamoriello jumped to acquire Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks, giving up a protected 2023 first-round pick, a struggling Anthony Beauvillier, and a center prospect Aatu Räty.

At the time of the trade, the Islanders were not holding a wild-card spot, and their chances of a playoff berth seemed slim to none. The signing of Horvat to an eight-year extension showed the Islanders faithful that Lamoriello was not only willing to bring someone in to help salvage this season but that the future window, which has been “closing” for a few years, stays open a bit longer.

The Islanders have won four of their last six games, with two come-from-behind victories against the Pittsburgh Penguins and two monumental wins over the Winnipeg Jets.

Being so close in the race likely means that Lamoriello will give this group a shot, potentially adding defense and forward depth.

Lamoriello’s decisions truly depend on the status of Barzal, the status of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who has missed the last seven games.

The Hockey Hall of Fame general manager has never been a fan of rentals, as we saw with the Pageau trade and sign in 2020,  the Kyle Palmieri trade and eventual signing in 2021, and Horvat now in 2023.

But for veteran depth, late-round picks could be enough to bring those players in.

Per CapFriendly, the Islanders will have around $7.7 million to spend if necessary.

Depth Options

A cheap option to help solidify the backend a bit would be 32-year-old defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who carries a cap hit of $2.25 million.

With the ability to play both sides, he could be a strong candidate to play alongside Noah Dobson and replace Sebastian Aho in the lineup.

Kulikov and the Ducks have not had a good season, but the Russian defender had a strong season with the Minnesota Wild in 2021-22, with a seven-goal, 17-assist 80-game campaign and 100 blocks.

Another name that hasn’t been discussed much is Arizona Coyotes forward Nick Bjugstad.

The 30-year-old has 13 goals and 10 assists in 60 games and carries a cap hit of $900,000. He’s a big-body centerman, standing at six-foot-six and weighing 209 pounds, but he is also responsible enough as he plays on the Coyotes’ top power play and is a member of their penalty kill.

You may be wondering why do the Islanders need another center if their most significant need is a winger?

Again, we are assuming (yes, we know what happens when you assume) that Pageau is returning sooner rather than later. Casey Cizikas has looked much stronger as a player while on the wing this season.

If Bjugstad is not on the table, maybe Colton Sissons, a right-handed centerman, would be an option. The 29-year-old has three years left at $2.857 million per, with nine goals and 13 assists in 57 games.

I’d be curious to see if Lamoriello can trade Josh Bailey for Sissons straight up.

If Barzal does return, if, the Islanders could line up like this:

Anders Lee-Bo Horvat-Mat Barzal
Zach Parise-Brock Nelson-Kyle Palmieri
Simon Holmsrtrom-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Casey Cizikas
Matt Martin-Nick Bjugstad/Colton Sissons-Hudson Fasching

If Barzal does not return, creativity ignites:

Anders Lee-Bo Horvat-Casey Cizikas
Zach Parise-Brock Nelson-Kyle Palmieri
Arnaud Durandeau-Jean-Gabriel Pageau-Simon Holmstrom
Matt Martin-Nick Bjugstad/Colton Sissons-Hudson Fasching

No, Cizikas is not a long-term solution on the top line like Matt Martin isn’t, despite his early success with Bo Horvat over the last few games. But the Islanders are at the point of the season where pretty means nothing, and the players who work well need to be together.

As for the defense, Lambert broke up Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock Wednesday night, and for the most part, it worked.

Adam Pelech-Scott Mayfield
Alexander Romanov-Ryan Pulock
Dmitry Kulikov-Noah Dobson

Sebastian Aho is a significant question mark defensively, especially given his size and inability to keep forwards to the outside without taking penalties.

Could New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello go all in at the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline and shock everyone? For sure, but for a team that isn’t a lock to make the postseason, with their star forward down for potentially the rest of the season and a ton of holes, giving up late-round picks to add more depth, pending free agent depth, seems like the more logical choice given the team’s situation.


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