One of the off-season goals for the NY Islanders should be to add a puck-moving defenseman. In recent years they've lost Devon Toews and Nick Leddy due to the constraints of the salary cap. The Isles need to add a puck-moving blue liner to their group. Having that as a plan is the easy part. The difficult part is how the blue and orange add the right one.
A Little More Offense
The Isles need to improve their offense, as well as the power play. The Isles finished 22nd in the league with 2.95 goals per game. As long as the Isles can continue their DNA of a strong defensive team that is hard to play against (finished 5th with 2.65 Goals Against) the Isles just need to take a step or two forward in this regard.
The Carolina Hurricanes are in the Eastern Conference Final because their strength is on the blueline as a very tough defensive team to play against that can also help fill the net. The Canes finished middle of the pack (15th with 3.20 Goals per Game) in terms of offense. If the Isles can make that jump from 22nd to the middle of the pack it will translate to a dangerous contending team.
The power play has to get better, pure and simple. The Isles were dreadful in the playoffs with the man advantage (1 for 18) and that followed suit how they performed in the regular season when they finished 30th with a 15.8%. If Noah Dobson can't take that next step to become a legitimate QB1 on the power play, the Islanders will need someone who will.
The Isles can either look to the upcoming July 1st free agency period or they can look to swing a trade in terms of adding the blue liner that they need.
In terms of offensive puck-moving defenseman via free agency the pickings are slim. The only option that makes sense is John Klingberg. Klingerg turns 31 over the summer and in 67 games this past season with the Anaheim Ducks and the Minnesota Wild posted 10 goals, and 33 points, along with a dreadful -25. Even in his big years with the Dallas Stars, Klingberg was terrific offensive and average at best defensively.
What Klingberg would get on the open market in terms of years and salary is a good question. He is a year older and coming off a down season and last summer had to settle for a 1-year deal (albeit with a $7 million salary), betting on himself that he would make more money this summer. That seems unlikely to happen after his bet went unsuccessful. Can Klingberg help give the Isles the offensive push they need while not being a liability defensive is the big question.
A much better option would be trading for Samuel Girard of the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs are up against it with the cap. In addition, Colorado needs forwards due to Gabriel Landeskog being out next season due to injury, as well as having six unrestricted free agents upfront. Because of this, there is a good chance one of the blue liners is moved this summer and that could be Girard.
Girard just turned 25 and is signed for the next four years with a cap hit of $5 million per season. This past year Girard had 6 Goals and 37 Points in 76 Games.
How would the Isles pull off a trade with Colorado for Girard is the question. After trading Aatu Raty in the Bo Horvat deal currently the Isles do not have what many would regard as a premium prospect in their pipeline. Also in terms of this year's upcoming Draft, the Isles only have one premium pick (2nd-round selection).
The Avs are going to want a young talented cap friendly forward along with a premium draft pick preferably a first-rounder. The forward that comes to mind is Oliver Wahlstrom. However, Walmstrom is currently penciled in the Isles's top-six and if the blue and orange are going to take that necessary forward leap offensively, odds are Wahlstrom would have a lot to do with that.
To land a player like Girard the Isles are limited in the tradable assets it would take to make a deal like that happen. Not sure what else the trade market would offer in terms of puck-moving defensemen but surely it's a short list at best as they are very hard to come by.
Having said all that, the Isles need to find a way to land a puck-moving defenseman.