Four games. Four losses. Five total goals. That’s the stretch the New York Islanders find themselves on.
There’s no question help is needed, and if New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello doesn’t bring in talent to support Ilya Sorokin‘s Vezina-caliber season, players will be going rather than coming when we reach the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline.
Lamoriello put the utmost faith in the Islanders as he viewed last season as a one-off with everything that went wrong. Rather than spend the money this offseason to bring in a high-level talent, he believed strugglers would bounce back, and the offense would be a force in the NHL.
It has not been, at just 3.05 goals per game to date, which ranks 22nd in the NHL.
Islanders All-Star Brock Nelson, who leads the team with 15 goals, has not scored in 11 straight games. When he goes, the Islanders go, and no one is going anywhere.
Over these last four games, the Islanders have wasted two elite starts from Sorokin.
Simon Holmstrom‘s return was a need, given his defensive game, but he has struggled to finish chances in his first few games back in the lineup.
Kyle Palmieri continues to miss games despite being a full participant at every practice.
Anthony Beauvillier continues to struggle with no goals in his last eight games and just eight on the season, as he has been one of the season’s biggest disappointments.
For how good he has been offensively this season, Noah Dobson has taken a step back defensively, and the defense as a whole has been anything but airtight, as we saw under Barry Trotz in his first few seasons behind the Islanders bench.
Adam Pelech skated with the team for the first time at Thursday’s optional morning skate, but there is no timetable for his return. When he is back, he will help the defense exponentially.
But he’s one player, and he can’t be the only player locking it down on a nightly basis.
Even if the defense over the last four games was spectacular, like we saw against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, you can’t win if you don’t score. It’s as simple as that.
Understandably, opposing teams want to hold on to their best assets until the NHL Trade Deadline, as that’s when they can get the biggest bang for their buck.
But the Islanders, with how tight the Metropolitan Division is, do not have time to wait 21 games for support and need their Hall of Fame manager to work his magic.
Could the Islanders find a way to go on a run from now until the deadline?
Of course, they can, as streakiness has defined their seasons over the last few years.
But they could also quickly find themselves far from a playoff spot by then, which means selling contracts and essentially “giving up,” missing the playoffs for a second straight season.
Defenseman Scott Mayfield, who just tied a career-high in goals on Thursday with five, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and is due for a pay raise from his $1.45 million AAV. He has stated how much he loves being on Long Island, and there wouldn’t be any shock if he takes a team-friendly deal.
However, given Mayfield’s style and the situations he plays in, there will be playoff-hopeful teams calling Lamoriello about his availability. And rather than let him walk this summer for nothing, Lamoriello may have no choice but to send him packing.
Lamoriello keeps everything tight to the vest, and it’s highly possible that Mayfield already has an extension in place.
Another player that the Islanders should consider moving would be netminder Semyon Varlamov. He is an unrestricted free agent this season, and Sorokin has shown that he is a clear-cut number-one netminder in the NHL.
Varlamov’s bounce-back season has elevated his value on the open market immensely. Last season, NYI Hockey Now learned that the asking price for Varlamov was a first-round pick, which was during a tough season for the veteran netminder.
After that, there isn’t much value unless Lamoriello moves some top players.
Names like Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau are two players that likely get you the best return right now, and moving either would send a shock wave through that locker room.
Lamoriello can try and move Josh Bailey ($5.5 M AAV) or Beauvillier (4.15 M AAV), as those moves would be about shedding salary, which is critical given the lack of cap space the Islanders had this past summer.
The Islanders missed out on Johnny Gaudreau, Nazem Kadri, and J.T. Miller (they may have dodged a bullet with him) because of their financial situations, so that can’t happen again if the Islanders want to go the free-agent acquisition route to improve the roster.
Lamoriello said after last season that his team would improve by making hockey trades.
Some big names could be available this summer if Lamoriello doesn’t upgrade at the deadline: Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, and David Pastrnak.
If the Islanders do not bolster their forward group soon, they will limit their ability at a playoff berth. That’s not to say that they won’t get in with the group they have, especially if they get healthy.
But the waiting game could be catastrophic for the New York Islanders, and by not acting, by not buying or selling, there could be significant consequences on the ice and financially in the future.