The NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the New York Islanders did not add. It’s not a shock that Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello held onto his pending unrestricted free agents, most notably goaltender Semyon Varlamov and Scott Mayfield.
The New York Islanders are in a playoff spot, albeit likely due to the number of games they have played compared to the rest of the league. There was a need for a veteran, defensive-minded defenseman at the deadline, with Noah Dobson struggling personally and alongside current partner Sebastian Aho.
But the Islanders, who had a tad over $6 million in cap space per CapFriendly, decided that this was the group they would go forward with as their playoff push continues.
Lamoriello did his heavy lifting before the deadline, acquiring Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 30 for Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Räty, and a 2023 conditional first-round pick, which is top-12 projected.
Horvat immediately signed an eight-year extension worth $8.5 million and has played well through his first 12 games in an Islanders sweater, with five goals and three assists.
Beauvillier has been on fire with his new team, with six goals and five assists on a team going nowhere.
Looking around the league as to what was given up for other high-caliber players, that trade seems to be looking better and better.
The Canucks have already dumped the first-round pick they had to another team, and given how the Islanders are playing, there was a strong chance that the pick would turn into a middle-to-late first-round selection anyway.
And then, on Tuesday, Lamoriello acquired a player he knows from his time as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, bringing in forward Pierre Engvall for a 2024 third-rounder.
Engvall has yet to play in a game yet, unable to get to Minnesota in time for Tuesday’s contest but will make his Islanders debut Saturday afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings.
Mayfield, a player who could have been on the move, was pleased with the additions.
“I really think both are great adds. They both bring a lot of speed to the lineup for big guys,” Mayfield said. “It’s hard to get the puck off Bo (Horvat). Pierre (Engvall) has been tough to play against. He’s got speed that you don’t see with bigger guys like that.”
“So, I think both are good adds, and you know, we just kind of keep going forward, and we got some injuries as well. So we’ll see where those are at.”
Lamoriello has given his group, which he has been faithful to, to a fault, a chance here.
“We love our group. And we believe in our group,” Matt Martin told NYI Hockey Now. “As a group, we’re thrilled that management has decided to make that push and not go the other direction.”
“As a professional athlete, I think if you ask anyone in the room, you want the GM that’s buying and not selling. Especially as you get older, you want opportunities to make special memories with the group and win a cup. Once again, he’s made the moves necessary to give us an opportunity, and it’s on us to go out there and capitalize.”
The Islanders have 18 games remaining on their schedule and, as mentioned, hold the second wild-card spot with 70 points in 64 games. They are a point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have played just 61 games.
The Buffalo Sabres (60 GP), Ottawa Senators (61 GP), Florida Panthers (63 GP), and Washington Capitals (63 GP) all sit four points behind New York.
Detroit, who the Islanders face Saturday, are sitting with 65 points and 61 games played.
After hosting Detroit Saturday, the Islanders face the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, followed by a game in Pittsburgh on Thursday before a Saturday home game against the Capitals.
One could say the New York Islanders season hangs in the balance of these next four games, and the players are more than aware.
“You know who you got coming up,” Mayfield said. I mean, there’s no question about it. Watch the games every night. See the standings every day. Click refresh more than you probably should, but I know it’s we know we got to do, and it’s gonna be a challenge, and we’re excited for it.”