3 recently traded forwards the NY Islanders must target in NHL free agency

The NY Islanders don’t have a ton of money in cap space to work with, but there is enough to sign established talent at reduced rates.

Dec 29, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; Washington Capitals right wing Anthony Mantha (39) skate with the puck chased by New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29)   during the third period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 29, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; Washington Capitals right wing Anthony Mantha (39) skate with the puck chased by New York Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) during the third period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Islanders can’t expect to struggle through a season like what they had in 2023-24 and hope to end up in the Metropolitan’s top-three again, let alone even make the playoffs. Very few teams who finish in the bottom half of the NHL in goals scored and goals against earn a trip to the postseason.

If you looked at where the Isles finished against the rest of the league in the goals for and goals against categories, plus their goal differential, and if you didn’t follow hockey, you’d be surprised this team made the playoffs. 

Luckily for the Islanders, they have one of the best goaltenders in the world, if not the best in Ilya Sorokin. He just struggled through a bad season, and there isn’t a single NHL player out there, even those in the Hall of Fame, who can sit there and claim they never had an “off-year,” or at least an off-year based on their standards. 

That said, the Isles goaltending and, by extension, goals allowed should take care of itself, but it’s tough to say the same about their scoring units. Sure, they have some of the league’s better scorers on Long Island, but it clearly wasn’t enough. 

NY Islanders need a solid, cost-effective scorer in NHL free agency

And if misfortune can strike the Isles again, it’s that their organization is cash-strapped this offseason, so while it would be possible to bring in a prize free agent forward, doing so would require a lot of lineup restructuring. Therefore, it makes more sense to find a solid scorer who wouldn’t break the bank if and when general manager Lou Lamoriello decided to upgrade his forward group. 

In the following three slides, you will meet a trio of recently traded players, none of whom should sign large, or even long deals. They’re all older or at least middle-aged players, but they were still productive enough to be in demand at the NHL trade deadline this past season, so they would factor in as solid additions in 2024-25. 

Adam Henrique, C/Edmonton Oilers

You may cringe at Adam Henrique’s most recent AAV, but given his current age, you shouldn’t worry too much about it. Henrique won’t, or shouldn’t, see an AAV of $5.825 million in his next contract, and it should instead be something in the neighborhood of $3 to $3.5 million, which even a team like the Islanders can easily afford. 

Henrique put up 24 goals and 51 points in his age-33 season, and what’s amazing is the fact the bulk of his production came with the Anaheim Ducks. No, he didn’t enjoy the same output in Edmonton, but with so many big-time players and scorers, there was no way the veteran center would have enjoyed the same success, at least from a points-production standpoint. 

However, he played a physical game, and that should be enticing to a team like the Isles; they love to hit, and that alone would make Henrique fit right into their system. The only difference is that he’s a much more capable scorer, and it’s something we saw the Isles need more of in 2024-25. 

When the sense of urgency arises, so does Henrique’s game, and he’s also been one of the hardest-hitting forwards in the postseason. As of May 29th, Henrique had only seen time in seven playoff games, but he snagged three points and two goals and landed 25 body checks. 

If signed at a reduced rate, Henrique wouldn’t completely turn around the Islanders scoring, but his presence would at least improve the unit. Right now, simple improvement is all Lou Lamoriello must focus on, but if he wanted someone with higher scoring potential, the next name on the list would be a major upgrade. 

Tyler Toffoli, W/Winnipeg Jets

Another older player whose AAV should continue to dip as he heads into his age-32 season, Tyler Toffoli could ignite the Islanders scoring units better than anyone else listed in this article. Toffoli was one of the few bright spots earlier this year on the New Jersey Devils, scoring 26 goals in 61 games and putting up 44 total points.

He kept up his pace following a trade to the Winnipeg Jets, something that was reflected in his 14.0 shooting percentage, which sat just 0.5 percentage points under what he achieved with the Devils. Overall, he had seven goals and 11 points in his 18 appearances, plus an additional two goals in five playoff games. 

Like the Isles, the Jets weren’t a playoff-bound team known for their scoring, as they finished a modest 15th place in the NHL with 259 goals. Toffoli debuted for the Jets on March 11th, and in their final 19 games of the year (Toffoli missed one of them), they logged 66 goals, good for 3.47 per contest, indicating his presence helped what was then an ultra-mediocre Winnipeg scoring unit. 

Toffoli would also add a little defense, and considering the year Ilya Samsonov struggled through, the latter would likely welcome him to Long Island. He can be a physical player, having averaged over a hit per game in Newark, and Toffoli also recorded a half-takeaway per game while in Manitoba. 

At 5-on-5, his on-ice save percentage wasn’t awful, considering the goaltenders he had to play in front of in New Jersey, and it sat at 89.1. This isn’t saying Toffoli is a sensational two-way player, but his game also isn’t purely based on offense. 

Anthony Mantha, W/Vegas Golden Knights

Finally, we have Anthony Mantha, who would be another cost-effective option for the Islanders if his surge later in the season didn’t immensely raise his value. It shouldn’t, but sometimes you never know what these front office executives will pay players if they want them with their organization badly enough. 

Mantha’s final 49 regular season games were something else, as he scored 16 goals and tacked on another 16 assists, giving him 32 points in that span. Before December 21st, 2023, his overall luck was a little different, as he logged a meager 12 points, albeit seven goals, in 25 contests. 

But let’s adjust the number of goals across 82 games, starting with what he scored in the first 25. Take seven, and divide it by 25, and multiply by 82, which gives you a decimal between 22 and 23. Not a bad number for an Islanders team that needs another scorer.

But if Mantha continues to parlay what he accomplished in those last 49 games, he’s looking at a season between 26 and 27 goals, assuming he’s around for all 82 games and scores at the same pace. He didn’t enjoy the same kind of luck in the NHL Playoffs, but Mantha showed he can score. 

He also enjoyed a couple of respectable seasons in the Motor City back when he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings, finding the net 49 times in 147 games between 2017 and 2019. So if his price remains reasonable, Mantha would be more than just a solid option to place in the middle of the Islanders lineup. 


(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)