The biggest need for the New York Islanders is to add a top-four defenseman to the roster. Lou Lamoriello still hasn’t brought in a replacement for Nick Leddy who was traded to the Detroit Red Wings.
Getting a puck mover to mimic what Leddy offered the Isles since 2014 makes sense, but perhaps getting a more stable option while allowing Noah Dobson to be that puck-mover might be the better course of action.
That’s why targeting Mattias Ekholm makes a lot of sense.
Mattias Ekholm is the perfect target for the New York Islanders
And sure, some of you will remember that Trotz once called Ekholm horrible. But that was ten years ago and it was about his play in a 5-1 loss to the Canucks and not about the defenseman’s potential.
Much has changed with Ekholm over those ten years.
Since that 5-1 loss to Vancouver in 2011, Ekholm has played 583 NHL games with Nashville with 219 points. He’s evolved into a clear top-four defenseman in the NHL. Exactly what the New York Islanders can use.
And look you probably don’t think a 6’4″ defenseman is a puck mover, but his puck-moving stats are surprisingly good:
- Controlled exits/60: 9.87
- Failed/60: 4.524
- Entries/60: 11.58
- Entries with a chance/60: 1.448
Just compare that to Nick Leddy:
- Controlled exits/60: 6.21
- Failed/60: 4.774
- Entries/60: 9.72
- Entries with a chance/60: 1.823
(All data from Corey Sznajder.)
And look the Nashville Predators played a similar forechecking style that the Islanders did. So these numbers aren’t just inflated because of a more rush-style offense.
Ekholm might be a good fit purely as a puck mover. But even if he isn’t brought in to be the team’s primary puck mover, he can be a stable two-way defender. Add his big frame, his familiarity with Trotz, his ability to kill penalties and play on the power play make him a very attractive target.
Not to mention his affordable cap hit. Ekholm has one year left with a $3.75 million cap hit. The Islanders could easily make that cap hit fit.
And then you consider that the Predators are seemingly at a crossroads in their cycle and could very well take a package of futures from the Islanders to facilitate this trade. At last year’s trade deadline they wanted two prospects and a first, you have to believe that cost has gone down since then. A cost the Isles can certainly afford.