The calendar has turned to September, meaning there will finally be NHL hockey games, albeit pre-season ones, played this month. It also means the notoriously slow news month of August, where fan polls, PTOs, and depth signings reign, has thankfully come to an end. But before it did, one more trade "rumor" grabbed my attention.
Scouring the internet for Isles news yesterday, I stumbled across a headline: "Mitch Marner Linked to the New York Islanders?" The headline did its job, and I clicked. The rumor wasn't a rumor at all and actually was based on a trade proposal thrown out by Yahoo! Sports hockey writer Nick Ashbourne back in June.
Would you have done this trade for Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner?
The premise was that if new Toronto GM Brad Treliving decided to break up the Leafs core, Marner would be a prime candidate to be on the move. The writer concluded the Leafs would need to bolster their blue line with a top-four defenseman and also bring back a scorer that could play on the second line with John Tavares.
The "fake trade" was as follows:
Well, what do you think? The money is a match, with $11.5M heading to Toronto and $12M on its way to Long Island (Marner has a cap hit of $10.9M AAV). Marner is a top-tier offensive talent, registering 97 (35G, 62) and 99 (30G, 69A) points in the last two seasons. His addition to the forward group would instantly change the perception of the Isles from a slow offensively challenged team to one that could boast two top lines with four All-Star caliber fowards in Marner, Mathew Barzal, Bo Horvat and Brock Nelson.
The Isles are also getting back RHD Connor Timmins, acquired by the Leafs last November from the Arizona Coyotes. A second-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2017, he's battled injuries throughout his young career, including missing an entire 2018-19 season due to symptoms following a concussion. He was traded by Colorado along with a 1st and 3rd round pick to the Coyotes in July 2021 in the deal that sent back goaltender Darcy Kuemper to the Avalanche. The 24-year-old is offensive-minded and impressed Leafs fans by registering 10 points in his first 12 games with the team, though he did not appear in the postseason as the Leafs blueline got healthier. He signed a two-year extension worth $2.2 million last season and is still developing, though his defensive shortcomings might not make him a fit for the structured game the Isles play.
You need to give something to get something, so the fact that Noah Dobson is the centerpiece of the trade for Toronto shouldn't be a surprise, and there's likely a segment of the fanbase that would be happy to move Dobson while his market value is still relatively high after 49 and 51 point seasons. Dobson struggled to quarterback the Isles' power play, but he's still only 23 and may have been unfairly criticized for not developing defensively fast enough. If Dobson does put it all together, he'll be due for a raise from his $4M AAV after the 2024-25 seaaon.
Palmieri was productive when he returned from injury for the team's playoff push, and his line with Brock Nelson and Pierre Engvall excelled, but the veteran winger has been too streaky and too injury-prone to be fully counted on. He still has the skill set to score 30 goals, but that mark is more likely to be reached on an offensively potent team like Toronto with a superior power-play.
Romanov turned a corner in the second half of the season, playing his best hockey before suffering an upper-body injury that ended his regular season and limited him physically in the playoffs. He's under team control and will carry a very manageable AAV for the next several seasons as he matures as a player, learns the Islanders system, and starts to assert himself more offensively. There's more potential there yet to be realized, which is why the Islanders traded the 13th overall pick at the 2022 NHL Draft to acquire the hard-hitting defenseman with
Final verdict: As tempting as Marner is, depleting the Islanders' blue line by trading two of their youngest defensemen is too steep to pay. Perhaps if the Islanders had more organizational depth on defense, you could debate making the trade but would put too much reliance on Sebastian Aho and Samuel Bolduc next season. The Isles would be going from having five defenseman that could be considered to "top-four" to having three sixth defenseman types (Aho, Bolduc and Timmons) all playing significant minutes each night. They would be turning a strength of their team to a weakness and even with the strong, if not elite goaltender from Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov, it's hard seeing that translate into playoff success,