3. Replacing from the Outside: Finding a Rental to Replace Lee
I’m not very high on this idea either, but if need be, the Islanders and General Manager Lou Lamoriello could go hunting on the trade market for a short-term Lee replacement. The problem here is, well, there several very obvious problems with this plan of action.
The first would be the NHL’s trade market during the 2020-21 season has been pretty barren. Yeah, we saw Patrik Laine and Pierre-Luc Dubois switch teams earlier this year, but both those players were disgruntled and wanted out of their current situations.
But, the marriage between Laine and Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella appears to be aging like milk left in the sun. (Who coulda seen that coming, am I right?) Laine is in the final season of his two-year, $6.750 million contract, so he would be a rental, which is not very enticing either. Plus, he’s repeatedly shown a distaste for playing defense. So, yeah, that’s not gonna fly on Long Island with Barry Trotz behind the bench. Next.
Taylor Hall signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres over the summer, and Buffalo is terrible right now, as Islanders fans got to see first-hand in last week’s three games against them. So, it stands to reason that Buffalo may be looking to move Hall before the April 12 NHL trade deadline.
The problem here again is that Hall is a rental, and I don’t like the idea of the Islanders giving up picks and prospects for half a season of Taylor Hall, who has been as snake-bitten a player as any in the NHL in 2020-21. Next.
The Nashville Predators stink, and as such may be looking to tear things down and go into a rebuild. Filip Forsberg has one more year left on his $6 million AAV contract, so that’s better than a rental as far as I’m concerned. Forsberg drives play in both ends of the rink, can finish scoring chances, and plays with and against top competition for the Predators. He’d be my pick if this is the route the Islanders choose to go down.
Now for the other problems: one of which is that the Islanders will have to find ways to clear cap space for these moves. Putting Lee on LTIR, should he need it, is one way of doing that, but what happens when the captain returns? Sounds messy to me, and the Islanders already have enough of a salary cap mess on their hands as is.
Then, there’s the obvious question of who goes the other way in a trade? The Islanders do not have a deep prospect pool, and what prospects they do have would not suffice in trading for any one of these players.
I’ve seen some ideas from fans on Twitter about who the Islanders could send back in a trade. But sorry, Kieffer Bellows and a first-round pick sounds like a quick way to get Buffalo and Columbus to hang up the phone, even with their players being pending free agents. Predators GM David Poile would probably laugh Lou out of the building if that were the Islanders offer for Forsberg too.
I just don’t see a way to get a trade done for the Islanders. Not one that brings in a Lee-level player, or close to it at least. You’d have to give up too much going the other way for a poor-fitting rental if the Islanders even have the assets available to do it, or the team would be further hamstrung by the salary cap for anything more than an expiring contract.
The goal for the Islanders is to win now. Win the Stanley Cup in 2020-21, because cap problems and core players aging out of their primes are issues on the horizon, but this is not how you do it, in my opinion.
Replacing Lee will be important, and near-impossible to do fully, but I’m sticking with replacement from within and looking for a cheaper trade option for the bottom-six. Not swinging for the fences on the trade market.