Should the NY Islanders explore trading Scott Mayfield at the trade deadline?
The March 3rd NHL trade deadline is right around the corner, and many teams have already begun to make their final moves before entering the last stage of the regular season. The NY Islanders made their big move before most teams started theirs, and that was when they acquired Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks that sent Anthony Beauvillier, Aatu Raty, and a 2023 conditional first-round pick the other way.
There were reports that Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders would evaluate the results from the handful of games after that trade to determine what direction they would go at the deadline. They currently sit in the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with 69 points but also have played a few more games than most teams they are competing with and are not ahead by a huge margin. So, when it comes to if they should buy or sell before the deadline, many fans are understandably torn.
Let's say the Islanders did decide to sell but moderately, a fire sale is not needed at this point. There are a few veteran players that could be of interest to some teams, but today the attention will be turned toward defenseman Scott Mayfield. He is currently 30 years old and is in the last year of his five-year contract that he signed back in 2018. Mayfield's role on the team is a physical, defensively sound bottom-pairing defenseman, and has held that for most of his time on the Island, which could be appealing for competing teams that want to add depth to their blueline.
What can the NY Islanders get in return for Scott Mayfield?
Mayfield is the type of defenseman you want on your team come playoff time. He is 6'5, 223 pounds, right-handed, has been on deep playoff runs to the conference finals twice with the Islanders, and plays the most aggressive game out of their well-renowned defensive system of players. According to Natural Stat Trick, he has an expected goals against of 48.5%, which is the third best on the team. He also has the most blocks on the team with 126 on the year and most recently had five in the Islanders' 4-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Mayfield can also chip in on offense sometimes as well in key moments. Islanders fans can look back on his game-winning goal against the Philadelphia Flyers in game seven of the 2020 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, along with scoring the tying goal late in the third period of game six against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals.
The other appealing part about Mayfield is his cap hit, which comes in at $1.45 million AAV. When it comes to trades that have happened around the league already, salary retention has been common from the team trading the player or through a third team that takes on salary for draft compensation, or both. With Mayfield having such a low cap hit, that gives him value alone and the Islanders don't have to deal with that part of negotiations too much.
With this in mind, it is reasonable to believe that teams will be willing to give up a first-round pick for Mayfield's services when also comparing it to similar deals. Many fans remember the haul that the Montreal Canadiens got from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Ben Chiarot, a player that plays a similar rugged, intangible, and responsible defensive game that teams need when playoff hockey begins. Chiarot also had a much higher cap hit than what Mayfield makes now at $3.5 million AAV, and the Canadiens still received a 2023 first-round pick, a 2022 fourth-round pick, and prospect Ty Smilanic back from the Panthers. The Habs did retain 50% of his salary, making his cap hit on Florida only $1.75 million, still less than what Mayfield's is now.
There are some teams that can afford this price of a first-round pick, or even a second-round pick if they play hardball. Teams like the Edmonton Oilers come to mind, who own their first-rounder this year (unlike, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs) and their greatest weakness is clearly their defense. The Oilers rank 20th in goals allowed and have the 26th-ranked penalty kill, which will not get it done in any round of the playoffs. They also should be in win-now mode with stars like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl among others running the show, so a first-round pick should be expendable. One could wonder if they want to go the route of trading young forward Jesse Puljujarvi, who has not had the best season thus far with only five goals and nine assists, or even someone like Kailer Yamamoto who similarly has only five tallies this year in fewer games. There are plenty of options for Edmonton to go if they have interest in Mayfield, and he can be a solid fit for a team lacking depth on the blue line.
If Lou Lamoriello is willing to trade Mayfield, he likely will push for high picks in this year's draft considering they traded theirs to the Canucks for Horvat. It's worth noting that Lamoriello may have plans to re-sign him, or just has no interest in taking calls on him to help the Isles' push toward the playoffs. In Mayfield's hypothetical absence, the Isles can either acquire somebody else to take his spot in the lineup or can bring up Robin Salo or Samuel Bolduc, who have both shown solid potential when called up from Bridgeport. If they do decide to moderately sell, Mayfield should be seen as a likely candidate to be moved and a player that the Islanders can afford to lose.