The assumed focus of this off-season for the New York Islanders has been to find a 'sniper' to play alongside Mathew Barzal. After left wing Johnny Gaudreau chose Columbus over the Islanders and New Jersey Devils, the number of potential line-mates has dwindled on the free-agent market.
Much of the recent chatter has been targeted toward Nazem Kadri where rumblings of mutual interest remain. Kadri is a natural center that has a career 49.2 face-off percentage. With the Islanders being strong down the middle, the question of whether Mathew Barzal or Brock Nelson could be moved to the wing to accommodate Kadri has been raised.
New York Islanders: Options at Center
However, there is reason to be cautious of a Kadri signing, and with a thinning free-agent crop, here are two more cost-effective options at center that could strengthen the team's offense and add to their forward depth.
36-year-old has been an extremely reliable center in the NHL for 16 seasons and showed that last season he can that can keep up offensively scoring 21 goals for the Winnipeg Jets. A 53.7 face-off percentage would be welcomed in many situations for the Islanders, while safely relying on a 40 plus point season from the veteran. Statsny would be an affordable short-term option.
Over at Colorado Hockey Now, Adrian Dater took a look as to whether Statsny could be a good replacement for Kadri with the Avalanche. He could also be a fall back option for the Islanders if their rumored pursuit of Kadri doesn't end with him signing to come to Long Island.
The Pittsburgh Penguins center took advantage of his opportunities last season, posting career bests in goals (19) and assists (24) as the Pens overcame injuries early in the season to both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. His production slowed down the second-half of the season, but he showed up in the seven-game series against the New York Rangers. Rodrigues is likely looking for a multi-year contract coming off his career-year. As he proved in Pittsburgh, he can move up and down the lineup and play a valuable and versatile role on a competitive team.
With their presumed top-target choosing elsewhere and a trade market that has been slow to develop, the Islanders could pivot towards a 'best player available' option that would shuffle their forwards if the end result is more offense.