The New York Islanders finally made signings the other day. The team announced new deals for a mix of in-house RFAs (Anthony Beauvillier and Ilya Sorokin) as well as some of their UFAs (Kyle Palmieri and Casey Cizikas.)
With those players now officially under contract the Isles lineup is a bit more “known”. But one spot hasn’t yet been filled, and that’s on the blue line. Specifically, on the second pair.
The second part of my “Islanders Big Questions” series, looks at where the Islanders will find a second pair left-hand defenseman.
New York Islanders still need a left-handed d for second pair
The team’s second-pair left-handed defenseman is really the only spot left up for grabs on the roster. Of course, that’s assuming that Zach Parise is officially signed to that contract we all know he’s signed. As it stands now the Isles blue line for 2021-22 is:
Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock
??????? – Scott Mayfield
Andy Greene – Noah Dobson
And even that can be debated. Depending on who fills that second pair LHD role the player to his right could be either Dobson or Mayfield. Dobson is better suited next to a more stable D-first player while Mayfield is better suited to be paired with a puck mover.
The Islanders have internal options that remain interesting if unlikely to fill the gap. Rookies like Robin Salo, Samuel Bolduc, and Sebastian Aho keep getting a lot of attention from curious fans, but there’s next to no chance that Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello start a rookie d-man and Noah Dobson in the same D-core.
Free Agency and Trade Market
The free-agent market has few good options. The best is perhaps Erik Gustafsson. The 29-year-old lefty is without a contract after splitting the year between Philadelphia and Montreal. Just three years ago, Gustafsson put up 60 points in 79 games with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Maybe with more ice-time (he averaged 16:43 last year), Gustafsson could get back to that type of production? I’m sure all of you reading that currently have a “I don’t know about that” face right now. And you’re not wrong. But that’s where the free-agent market is at right now.
When it comes to the trade market there are a ton of options out there. But which one is likely to budge this close to training camps and the regular season starting? It’s certainly not impossible that a substantial trade is made right now. Remember 2014 when Garth Snow picked up Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk hours apart on October 4, one day after the Isles final pre-season game and six days before the start of the regular season.
Teams like the Seattle Kraken, Ottawa Senators, and Carolina Hurricanes all have a surplus on the blueline. Not to mention some of the teams looking to build for the future by selling off some useful players now (Hamphus Lindholm in Anaheim comes to mind.
The trade route remains the best avenue for Lou to acquire the player he’s looking for to fill that 2LHD role. It’s why he hasn’t yet signed (officially) Parise, Zajac, Dal Colle, Bellows, Koivula, Golyshev. He’s still working on something.