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Should Islanders Go After LI Native Sonny Milano?



Sonny Milano, New York Islanders

Sonny Milano, a native of Massapequa, NY, is an unrestricted free agent after the Anaheim Ducks failed to offer the 26-year-old a qualifying offer by Monday’s 5 PM deadline. 

Not only is Milano from Long Island, but he grew up a New York Islanders fan.

The skilled left-winger notched 14 goals and 20 assists in 66 games with the Ducks in 2021-22 and could be a cheap but valuable pickup for New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, who may not win the “Big Fish” battle this offseason. 

All signs point to Johnny Gaudreau ending up with the New Jersey Devils, but the situation remains fluid. 

“I’m open to anything,” Lamoriello said the day before the 2022 NHL Draft kicked off last Thursday, July 7. 

It is rare in the NHL for the New York Islanders to bring in Long Island natives. In 15 years, only 15 NHLers have come from New York state and played for the Islanders.

Only theee players were born on Long Island in Kyle Palmieri, Ritchie Hansen, and Chris Ferraro.

That information above was from the great Eric Hornick.

Other teams around the league have brought in hometown kids in the past and it has paid off.

Back in Feb. of 2019, the Boston Bruins acquired Weymouth, MA native Charlie Coyle, who has hit the 40-goal mark in black and gold and is a key member of the Bruins’ third line. 

Dylan Larkin, from Waterford Township, MI, was drafted 15th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2014 NHL Draft, and is now their captain and a keystone player for the organization. He has one year left before he reaches UFA status.

So should the Islanders go after Long Island native Sonny Milano?

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

We all remember Sonny Milano in his time with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The young forward showed so much promise after being a 16th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. His speed was stellar, but his lack of size impacted his ability to be as effective as he could have been on both sides of the puck.

Then came his chance with the Anaheim Ducks after being acquired back in February 2020.

After signing a two-year extension that summer, it was a slow start for Sonny in sunny Anaheim, finding his way onto waivers before eventually getting a chance and playing top-six minutes alongside superstar Trevor Zegras.

Everyone remembers the ridiculous behind-the-net pass that Trevor Zegras made this past season that got ESPN analyst, and newly appointed head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers John Tortorella heated about moves like that and their impact on the game.

Well, the benefactor of that pass was Sonny Milano.

And that was just one play. Zegas and Milano had that chemistry that turned hockey into a work of art.

Could you imagine Mathew Barzal being the ‘Trevor Zegras’ for Milano on Long Island?

No, I could not.

If Zegras and Milano were that good together, why did the Ducks not offer an RFA deal to Milano?

Something is off there.

Milano, despite posting career highs in assists and games played, while tying a career-high in goals, cooled off towards the end of the season.

Although Barry Trotz is no longer the bench boss of the New York Islanders, he shared during a press conference about trading chances. It does not matter how many pucks a team, a line, or a player puts in the back of the net if the puck ends up in their own net at the same rate.

Per Natural Stat Trick, when Sonny Milano was on the ice five on five in 2021-22, the Ducks scored 33 goals but allowed 35. Now that’s not to say that Milano was the reason–it’s just what the stat line shows.

The scoring chances were 418 to 384 in favor of the Ducks, but again it’s about production, especially for the New York Islanders, who need more production at forward.

On an individual level, Milano only took 78 shots at five on five (1.18 shots per game). To compare that to the New York Islanders, whose offense was troubled in 2021-22, Milano would have ranked him tied for 12th on the Islanders, with Zdeno Chara and Casey Cizikas.

Mathew Barzal shot the puck 119 times at five on five.

This is not to say that Milano cannot work with the Islanders or that he would have to be with Mathew Barzal. It could be beautiful. It could be glorious.

But also remember that even with Barry Trotz not at the helm, defense is still the most integral part of the success of this franchise. Especially alongside Barzal, who focuses heavily on offensive zone play, he needs players on his line that have ana ability to play on the defensive side of the puck.

And then you have to remember that Sonny Milano is a playmaker. That’s what the stats show.

However, Mathew Barzal is the playmaker.

Given what the Islanders need, a bonafide goals scorer, adding a depth piece such as Sonny Milano does not make much sense.

But having a Long Island native on the team would be a cool dynamic, especially in the organization’s 50th season, and would cost around $3 million, if that.

Joshua Linsenberg contributed to this piece.