If the NY Islanders were to sell this trade deadline was their best opportunity

The Isles are mortgaging more of their future by taking the selling route off the table.

2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series - New York Rangers v New York Islanders
2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series - New York Rangers v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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The NY Islanders will be receiving calls regarding some of their top and mid-tier players between now and today's NHL trade deadline. Before the teams recent resurgance, fans for the first time seemed unanimously prepared to move on from some of their most coveted players and accept a rebuild. However, there is speculation that the front office is not ready to make such a change this season. Even though the Islanders are not currently in a playoff spot, Lou Lamoriello recently left the door open to buying talent and 'doubling down' on a roster that has been inconsistent since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021.

If the past 3 seasons have not been convincing enough, it would be naive to trade more assets just to have a chance at making the playoffs in 2024. While the fanbase has an emotional attachment to these players, we understand that an aging roster in a salary-cap league will not last forever. Furthermore, there is evidence the Islanders could have received a better than market value return on some of its talent.

Lamoriello could have struck while the center market is barren.

The strength of the Islanders on offense the past few seasons has been their depth at the center position. On their top line, Bo Horvat takes the faceoffs while Mathew Barzal transitions from wing to center when entering the offensive zone. Brock Nelson is a consistent 30-plus goal centerman, which is hard to find around the NHL. J.G. Pageau consistently wins 55% or more of his faceoffs every season, as well as Casey Cizikas who figures to earn more assists moving up to the third line.

The trade market for centers is bereffed of talent with most teams believing they have a shot to make the playoffs. Elias Lindholm is off the board after being traded from the Calgary Flames to the Vancouver Canucks for 2024 first and conditional fourth-round picks. Other players of note from rebuilding franchises include Adam Henrique of the Anaheim Ducks, Alex Wennberg of the Seattle Kraken, and Nic Dowd of the Washington Capitals. However, the commonality among these players is that they are older, bottom-six centers who will be free agents at the end of this season.

The Islanders have all of their centermen under contract through next season. Nelson and Pageau have one season left and are better than any of the centers in this current market. With 20 games left, Nelson can easily reach 35 goals this season while Pageau figures to gain offensive momentum playing on the second line with Anders Lee and Kyle Palmieri. The Islanders also experienced a jolt in production in the 2020 postseason after Pageau was acquired at the deadline. He was integral to the team winning four playoff rounds between 2020 and 2021.

As fans, it's traumatizing to picture Nelson wearing another team's uniform. He will soon surpass John Tavares with the franchise's 7th most goals and ranks 6th in games played. A homegrown Islander drafted in the first round of 2010, none of us want Nelson to be traded. He continues to improve as his career goes along, which is the opposite trajectory of most players late into their prime. However, at age 32, Nelson will command a contract late into his 30s. His value will never be higher, including in the offseason with just one year at $6 million remaining on his contract.

Pageau is in a similar conundrum with just one year remaining on his contract. However, he does not bring the same offensive starpower as Nelson, making his contract more difficult to move in the offseason. Teams are searching for centers that can provide offense, and defense, and win crucial faceoffs. Additionally, contenders would rather trade assets for players with team control beyond this season, making Pageau's contract more appealing at just $5 million through 2024-25. With the supply of centers being low and demand being high, the Isles have an opportunity to receive a return on investment for Pageau's contract.