There's been only one name for the NY Islanders mentioned as a potential trade chip this off-season - and that’s JG Pageau. While it may have been beneficial to ship off the Ottawa native for a player of Alex DeBrincat's caliber, there doesn't seem to be much out there right now as far as potential trades, yet Pageau's name is frequently brought up. Acquired for a first and second-round pick at the 2020 trade deadline, the 30-year-old has been a critical piece in the Isles' lineup and maybe the most versatile of all the Islanders' center options.
Pageau endeared himself to the Islanders faithful the moment he stepped on the ice in the blue and orange. During his first game with his new team, the Isles took on the NY Rangers on a cold February night. Pageau managed to find the back of the net, scoring in his first game with the Isles, and dropped the gloves with Jacob Trouba following a vicious hit on Josh Bailey. Pageau proved his mettle immediately to his teammates and the fans as he was serenaded by chants of “Pageau” from every angle of Nassau Coliseum.
Just a few years later and plenty of people are looking to ship off a player they were once so excited to acquire. While his contract and capabilities make him a candidate to be a piece heading out in a trade, he’s likely more valuable to the Islanders than whoever the team might receive in return.
First off, Pageau allows the Islanders to begin play with the puck more than most centers around the league. His 57.25% winning percentage on faceoffs was 12th best in the league last season among players who have taken at least 500.
Aside from winning key draws, Pageau is utilized in all situations. He’s arguably the team's most capable penalty killer and finished last season with eight power play goals - the second most of his career.
While the Islanders have five capable centers, Pageau may be the most versatile all. He’s best in his usual position of third-line center, but he’s capable of playing up in the lineup for periods of time. He’s not going to put up numbers similar to Bo Horvat, Mat Barzal, or Brock Nelson, but he can fill in if necessary for the short term.
His offensive praise was a bit unheralded last season, finishing with 40 points (13 goals, 27 assists) - tied for the second most in his career, all while playing only 70 games. It may not be jaw-dropping numbers, but it's precisely what you look for in a third-line center who plays both ends of the ice.
The one knock on Pageau has nothing to do with his game but instead his salary. A $5M cap hit for each of the following three seasons is a bit high for a third-line forward, but depth at the position is enormously important, especially come playoff time. Trading Pageau for someone like Jake DeBrusk may bring more scoring to the Islanders, but what the team would lose without Pageau might be even more problematic to overcome.