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Islanders Leo Komarov for Brett Connolly trade risk worth taking

SUNRISE, FLORIDA - JANUARY 12: Brett Connolly #10 of the Florida Panthers takes the ice prior to the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at BB&T Center on January 12, 2020 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
SUNRISE, FLORIDA - JANUARY 12: Brett Connolly #10 of the Florida Panthers takes the ice prior to the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at BB&T Center on January 12, 2020 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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The one trade rumor surrounding the New York Islanders recently is a possible swap of players on taxi squads. The Fourth Period indicated that the Islanders and Florida Panthers were close to a deal where Leo Komarov would go to the Florida Panthers and Brett Connolly would return to the Islanders.

The trade is a risky one because Connolly isn’t exactly playing well for Florida, but if the Islanders can get Connolly playing like he’s done in the recent past it will be well worth it for the Isles.

Trading for Brett Connolly is a risk worth taking for the New York Islanders

If the Islanders need an upgrade anywhere on the ice it’s on that third line left wing spot. Of late, the team has alternated between Leo Komarov and Michael Dal Colle next to center Jean-Gabriel Pageau and right-wing Oliver Wahlstrom.

The two options on the left-wing have combined for four points this season. That’s just not good enough. Their defensive play is good enough for a Barry Trotz system, but the Isles could certainly find a player out there that can provide more offense while still being able to play in Barry’s system.

That’s why they’re focused on Connolly who has played in a Barry Trotz system during his time with the Washington Capitals from 2016-17 to 2017-18.

In these two years under Trotz, Connolly scored 15 goals twice and hit 20+ points. He was also a good contributor in the Caps Stanley Cup run in 2018 where Connolly scored six goals and nine points.

In the two years after winning the Cup, Connolly upped his game and scored 41 goals and 79 points between time with the Caps and Panthers. He’s been a solid bottom-six player for the last four years before the 2021 season.

But now at 28 years old (he turns 29 in May), Connolly, who should just be in his prime, seems to have fallen off a cliff in Florida. He has three points in 16 games. There’s a risk that this is the version of Connolly the Islanders get. There’s also the cap implication that could be a problem for the already cap-strapped Islanders.

According to another rumor, the two sides are working on ways to make the cap work. But unless the Panthers are willing to hold more than $500,000 of Connolly’s cap hit this won’t help the Islanders now and in the years left on Connolly’s deal.

And that’s assuming Connolly can play the way he did when Trotz was his coach in Washington. Or how Connolly was in the two years after Trotz’s departure from DC.

At his age, it’s a bit strange to see him absolutely fall off a cliff this year. For a player that routinely converts shots to goals over 15% of the time at 5on5, seeing him hold a 0% shooting percentage is wild, normally Connolly would be expected to have at least two goals to his name at 5on5.

There’s a risk that bringing in Connolly won’t work and that the Islanders will just simply bring back another dead contract like the one they’re letting go in Leo Komarov. But if they could get the Connolly from 2016 through to 2020, the trade will be worth it.

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