With all of the opinions about the moves the New York Islanders should make with pending free agents and William Nylander and a slow-starting Beauvillier and highly-touted prospects, here’s one more opinion – they should do none of them.
It may not be a popular idea to ride the status quo with the current version of the New York Islanders, especially after two beatdowns in the past week, but here’s a take on the other side of the argument for why we shouldn’t make any deals.
(Caveat: this is based on the Isles remaining in playoff contention. If it all falls apart then this is up for debate.)
The Isles Core is Strong
If you take a step back for a moment and look at what the Islanders have as the core of their team, it’s not bad at all, and you could argue it is a core to build around. And almost everyone is under 30.
– Mat Barzal (21) and Anthony Beauvillier (21) are on an upward trajectory after finding their feet last year as rookies. Ryan Pulock (24) continues to progress as a top-pairing blueliner.
– Anders Lee (28) may not score 40 this year, but his impact as a player and captain shouldn’t be understated. Josh Bailey (29) is an All-Star playmaking winger under team control on a team-friendly contract through the 2023-24 season. Jordan Eberle (28) is a proven 25-goal scorer who has fit with the team from the start.
Reliable talent – Thomas Hickey (29) continues to give dependable play on the back end. Same for Johnny Boychuk when healthy. The bottom six with guys like Cizikas (27) and Filppula has done what they are supposed to, with nothing fancy but hardworking, positive results.
Potential talent – Brock Nelson (27) has shown more than flashes this year, he’s also been consistent. If that continues then he can be seen as a second line center solution. Nick Leddy could return to his old form. Scott Mayfield could be more consistent and be the defensive-minded defenseman for years to come.
Lou Lamoriello Is Sticking to His Plan
Even if you disagree with the argument that the core is strong as a reason the Isles shouldn’t make any deals, you will have a hard time arguing that the Isles will make deals.
Lou Lamoriello has a clear plan, and while he may not have shared it with us, he kind of has.
We heard all offseason that Lou Lamoriello wants to see what he has first, so let’s let him. He made no big splash signings and brought up no unestablished minor league talent, which solidifies what he already told us he would be doing.
He wanted a team that was accountable, dependable and full of known commodities. Like it or not, he has built exactly that. He has his guys and is having Barry Trotz groom the rest. This is the plan in action.
It takes time to analyze a team, find out how they gel and work out who fits the system and who doesn’t. The fact remains that there are no indications that Lou Lamoriello wants to make any moves other than those he already has.
Sure, There Are Question Marks
The defense is still leaky and makes mistakes with the puck. The powerplay has been terrible. The goaltenders have been great this year, but the season is long and they’ll need to prove they can sustain it.
The future of the second line center position is being all-of-a-sudden entrusted to Brock Nelson. He’s doing well right now, but there’s empirical evidence that suggests he fades later int he season.
By saying the Isles don’t need a trade I’m not saying that there are no holes to fill. I’m debating that the core of the team is there to build around. That is exactly the plan that Lamoriello and Trotz have been very clear about from the start.
If No Trades, Then What?
Trade rumors and speculating line combinations with William Nylander are fun. Dreaming of a team taking on Ladd’s contract with his consent is what the Christmas season is all about. I love it, you love it, we all love it.
But the Islanders are exceeding expectations with the current roster, and they are actually not quite gelling at full potential yet. And they have a stocked talent pool in the minors.
That’s all exciting.
Keep who we have. Find out if some of the young defensemen fit the system and if not, make the move at season’s end. Work some prudent cap magic. Sign Lee. Sign Eberle. Sign Filppula. Sign Lehner. Sign Brock (if he keeps this up).
Keep the core together and plug holes one at a time with what will then be known commodities in the minors.
Put your trade rumor hats away for a while because it doesn’t seem that Lou is going to give you what you want for Christmas. The moves just aren’t happening in this wait-and-see approach, so let’s focus on what we have.
The Isles core has talent and age on their side and is only getting better playing together. With more time in Barry Trotz’s system, there is no reason to break that up while they are playing winning hockey.