It's no secret there's a log jam at the center position for the NY Islanders, with Mat Barzal as the likely candidate to move to the wing as he did last season following the acquisition of Bo Horvat. Another option for Lou Lamoriello is to move one of their five centers for a natural winger or an offensive-minded defenseman.
At Lamoriello's end-of-season press conference, he mentions the team has five natural centermen. Elliotte Friedman, the host of Sportsnet's 32 Thoughts podcast, digs deeper into Lamoriello's quotes and feels they may have a deeper meaning.
"I got an interesting call from someone who said there is no way Lamoriello drops that fact without a reason," said Friedman. "So what he's thinking is one of two things is happening here. He's either saying, OK, we'll be able to be flexible with our forwards, or he's saying, I have an extra center." Friedman continues, saying, "he (Lamoriello) does nothing without a reason. So that one was definitely out there."
With the sign-and-trade for Damon Severson from the NJ Devils and bringing in Ivan Provorov from the Philadelphia Flyers, the Columbus Blue Jackets defensive corps has become congested, needing help down the middle of the ice.
As both organizations have something the other wants, the two could become ideal trade partners. We'll review some trade proposals created by our friends at Union and Blue between the Isles and Blue Jackets:
Drafted eighth overall in 2018, Adam Boqvist is only 22 years old and would fill the need for a puck-moving defenseman along the Isles' blue line. Appearing in at least 35 games over the past four seasons between the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus, Boqvist's numbers have improved every season. Reaching a career-high in points this season, Boqvist raked in 24 (five goals, 19 assists) in 46 games, leading the team.
Brock Nelson was the Islanders' best player last season, not named Ilya Sorokin. Reaching a career-high, finishing with 75 points (36 goals, 39 Assists) while not missing a game, Nelson's consistency was pivotal in the Isles' run during the second half of the season.
Carrying a cap hit of $2M over the next two years as opposed to $6M for Nelson over the same amount of time, this trade for Boqvist allows the Islanders the cap space needed to sign a much-needed winger. While Boqvist fits a need for the Isles and adds to the youth along the blue line, it's difficult to believe Lamoriello would move the teams leading scorer while the organization is in win-now mode.
Entering his third season as a regular in the NHL, Andrew Peeke is a smooth-skating, big-bodied, right-shot defenseman. A bit older than Boqvist at 25, he plays a much more defensive-minded game, finishing with 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 80 games. Finishing dead-last in the NHL in terms of plus/minus at -41, Peeke's poor numbers are due in part to the injuries and dreadful season Columbus endured this season.
Since being acquired from the Ottawa Senators at the 2020 trade deadline, JG Pageau has become an integral cog within the Isles lineup. Finishing second in faceoff percentage (57.2%) for the Isles behind Bo Horvat (58.5%), Pageau has proven his capability to play up and down the lineup.
This trade would also give Lamoriello more flexibility within the salary cap, as Peeke is earning $2.75M AAV over three more years, compared to $5.0M for Pageau over the same time. Though Pageau may be the likely player to go if the Isles were to move a center, it likely wouldn't be for a defensive-mind defenseman.