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More Islanders Trades Possible; Hello, Martin Necas?

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New York Islanders Trade Talk, Martin Necas.

Memorial Day Weekend has come and gone. Barbecues are cooled, but the NHL trade oven is starting to heat up. 

Just before everyone broke off for the holiday weekend, the New York Islanders’ trade with the Chicago Blackhawks featured dropping two spots in round one (18th to 20th) and four spots in round two (50th to 54th). The gained asset was an additional second-round pick, No. 61 overall.

It was a classic Friday news dump before a holiday weekend, but it shouldn’t be the end of the Islanders’ trade activity this summer.

The reaction around the NHL world to the first deal was that of genuine surprise. Typically, trades involving draft picks like this occur exclusively on the draft floor, not an entire month ahead of time. It seems reasonable to ask if there’s more to this. 

The 2024 NHL Draft is a weaker class overall, with the later first-rounders seen as less valuable than last year. However, moving down two spots for the Islanders shouldn’t hurt their value if they want to keep the pick. 

And that’s where we begin sleuthing clues to Lou Lamoriello’s goal. Using a mid-to-late first-round pick for a team with a closing window to compete makes very little sense. Yes, the prospect pool is bleak. But what helps the team more right now? Someone like Nikolaj Ehlers or prospects like Michael Greentree or Ryder Ritchie? 

No disrespect to the prospects, but the Islanders window is closing rapidly. They’re much better off acquiring a bonafide talent who can help now than keeping the pick.

However, that’s not to say they should give that pick away for veteran bubble gum and chicken wire. Last year, only one first-rounder was traded in June, and that was Alex Newhook, 22, whom the Colorado Avalanche sent to Montreal along with a second-round pick. 

Newhook was under team control as an RFA, and two weeks later, he signed a four-year deal. 

Martin Necas, Trade Talk

With much attention pointing to the available Ehlers, maybe the Islanders are looking for a different forward who could be available. That forward is Martin Necas.

Necas, 25, would be a slam-dunk acquisition for the Islanders. He is coming off consecutive 20+ goal seasons, along with solid playoff production to boot. Necas is a pending RFA and is in line for a significant raise, likely in the $6.5-$7 million dollar per season range.

One apparent hurdle is that Carolina would prefer not to trade Necas in the division, let alone to a team they’ve seen in consecutive postseasons. However, with their cap situation compromised due to loads of other free agents on their roster, such as Jake Guentzel and Seth Jarvis, Necas is expected to be available for trade.

Necas’s father already said the speedy and underutilized forward wants out.

Would the 20th overall pick, packaged with the 54th or 61st, and fellow RFA Oliver Wahlstrom do the trick? 

It’s hard to say. Lamoriello would have to sell Hurricanes Interim General Manager Eric Tulsky that there’s more to Wahlstrom’s game. Wahlstrom has not returned to his form before his ACL tear last season. But Carolina will need bodies, and a flier on Wahlstrom, along with two top-60 picks, seems to be an appropriate package.

Of course, if this happens, the Islanders would then pivot to move on from Jean-Gabriel Pageau or another high-salary player. Anders Lee could make sense, but he is the captain and was arguably their best player in the series against the Hurricanes. Lee and Pageau would also cost an asset to move on from.

Heck, if you do this right, Lamoriello could swing for the fences and acquire both Ehlers and Necas. As previously discussed here at NYI Hockey Now, a potential Ryan Pulock-Ehlers swap would work on both ends and clear the cap the Islanders need to sign Ehlers to an extension. And there’s no rule against another big trade for Necas. 

Three major roster shakeups of this magnitude would reinvigorate this fanbase. Fans would believe the team is moving forward instead of being stuck in the past. The old core would be mixed up, and the Islanders could reap profound benefits. 

It’s a pipedream, to be sure. More likely, you’re only getting one of Necas or Ehlers, and the choice between the two should be easy.

If available, Necas should be the Islanders’ top target this summer. He is young, fast, and a goal scorer. Necas checks every box in the Islanders’ most significant need. He just won a gold medal with Czechia, netting 7 points in 5 games. 

Just this postseason, the Islanders watched him torch them for five points in the five-game series. Necas would solve many problems for the Islanders and simultaneously hurt a divisional rival to acquire him. 

The added draft capital, courtesy of the trade with Chicago, added necessary chips to the Islanders’ table. The time to cash in those chips is now.