It’s been relatively clear from the beginning of the season that the New York Islanders need to add a depth defenseman if they want to give themselves the greatest chance at making the playoffs and going on a run.
While it seems Islanders’ head coach Lane Lambert has his top two pairs figured out right now, with Adam Pelech clicking with Scott Mayfield and Alexander Romanov looking more confident alongside Ryan Pulock, that bottom pairing of Sebastian Aho and Noah Dobson has struggled mightily.
Both have been weak on pucks, and Dobson had an inexcusable turnover in the first period against the Minnesota Wild, leading to their only goal of regulation in a 2-1 shootout loss for New York.
With the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline now just three days away and defensemen flying off the board, times ticking.
After trading for forward Pierre Engvall on Tuesday, the Islanders now have $5.274 million in projected deadline cap space.
NYI Hockey Now learned on Tuesday night that the Islanders are indeed on the search for a defenseman, which makes a ton of sense for reasons explained above.
The belief is that Lamoriello is looking at the Western Conference, rather than the East.
For the sake of this list, we are assuming that Islanders right-side defenseman Scott Mayfield survives the trade deadline but does not necessarily get re-signed in the summer.
Here are five defenseman options for the Islanders
The 32-year-old Dmitry Kulikov is a name we mentioned earlier in the week, as he would be a cheap option to help solidify the backend a bit. He 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.
— Hockey Daily 365 l NHL Highlights (@HockeyDaily365) February 20, 2023
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.
He has 103 blocks this season, which would rank third on the Islanders.
Kulikov was traded by the Minnesota Wild last summer for future considerations as a cap dump, so his asking price will be anything but expensive.
Shown in our Kulikov highlight was fellow Duck, defenseman John Klingberg. The 30-year-old defenseman signed a one-year deal with the Ducks this offseason, worth $7 million, and in a prove-it year, his point total has taken a dip on a struggling team, with just eight goals and 16 assists in 50 games.
One time for John Klingberg 🕺 pic.twitter.com/ujXfVk9a8i
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) February 26, 2023
He’s better than that and could be a solid piece for the Islanders’ backend.
Klingberg is not a bottom-six-pairing defenseman, but he’s also not the most vigorous defender either. But he can help with the transition game and can also help take pressure off Dobson’s back with his offensive skill set.
Klingberg is a right-shot defenseman, so that doesn’t mean he’d be comfortable playing on his off-side, but the Islanders can place him where they see fit. And if Mayfield doesn’t re-sign, Klingberg can be the guy.
Or Mayfield could be included in the trade for Klingberg as the Ducks try to shed cap and garner assets.
Klingberg would not come cheap.
The cost for Klingberg was projected to be at least a first-round pick, per Frank Seravalli back in if November.
With his struggles, maybe the ask becomes a second.
Klingberg would HAVE to come with an extension in place. Despite a down season in a prove-it year, he would likely cost $6 million annually.
On Tuesday night, Tyson Barrie was included in a package deal sending Nashville Predators elite defenseman Mattias Ekholm to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s not a secret that Nashville is blowing things up a bit, and Barrie and his $4.5 million annual value over the next two seasons will likely be flipped.
Like Klingberg, Barrie plays the right side, and his contract may be a bit more expensive than what Mayfield would get from the New York Islanders or another team on the open market.
He’s not a strong defensive defenseman, but he does provide that offense from the backend and could be a critical asset on the power play.
Barrie has been quarterbacking the league’s best power play for the last three seasons in Edmonton and has scored 10 goals, his highest total since the 2018-19 season, already surpassed last year’s point total in 12 fewer games played.
a tyson barrie powerplay blast ties the game up at 1 in the dying seconds of the first. pic.twitter.com/YAEaYJuFFd
— zach (@zjlaing) February 22, 2023
Does Barry Trotz want any Islanders, as he’s taking over the general manager role on July 1st?
Per The Athletic, the Oilers valued Tyson Barrie over Klingberg. Does Nashville want to keep him? He’s on the cheaper side for what he’s brought and comes with term.
Shayne Gostisbehere (TRADED TO CAR)
You guys included Shayne Gostisbehere in your fan trade proposals, and he’s someone that would be a solid addition to the Islanders’ backend.
First, he fits the ultimate need, being a left-shot defenseman and someone who can play alongside Dobson. He’s suspect defensively but has found his offensive game again over the last two years in Arizona. He has 10 goals and 21 assists in 52 games after 14 a season prior.
The game-winner, courtesy of Shayne Gostisbehere. 💪 pic.twitter.com/t3PeOn9LBF
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 18, 2022
He’s another player who can help the power play and is a strong puck mover, which would allow the transition game.
The Islanders are among the few teams that would not need a third team to broker a deal as they can fit his $4.5 million cap hit, making the acquisition cost cheaper with a third party not required.
The asking price could be a second and a late-round pick to get the job done.
The 28-year-old Carson Soucy should be on the New York Islanders’ radar.
Although just two goals and eight assists in 59 games, Soucy is a big-body defenseman, standing at six-foot-five and weighing 208 pounds, and the Islanders need a presence like that to help box out opponents.
He’s a perfect player alongside Dobson, being a phyiscal left-shot defenseman.
What a hit from Carson Soucy on Conor Garland 💣 pic.twitter.com/xCNHzyZaM1
— ًًً (@twistedleafs) January 2, 2022
Soucy’s also a pending unrestricted free agent needing a contract extension. At the end of January, Jeff Marek reported that contract talks with the Seattle Kraken, who took Soucy in the expansion draft, have not gone well and that he might want to test free agency.
The Kraken are in a playoff spot and would rather not lose Soucy unless they upgrade at that position.
With a $2.75 million cap hit right now, he’s looking at around $3 million per year on his next extension, which isn’t too expensive.
It would take at least a second-round pick to acquire Soucy, and maybe more given their playoff aspirations, but if Lamoreillo can lock him up at a reasonable price, it would make the backend much stronger for now and the next few seasons.