The 3 trade deadline strategies for the NY Islanders to consider

Lou Lamoriello left the door open to all possibilities on Thursday.

New York Islanders Training Camp
New York Islanders Training Camp / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
2 of 3

The New York Islanders will have decisions to make regarding their roster before the NHL's trade deadline on March 8th. Through 56 games this season, the Islanders are 23-19-14, tied for 4th place in the Metropolitan Division with the Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils.

All three teams are seven points behind the 3rd place Philadelphia Flyers and six points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the second Eastern Conference wild-card spot. While far from impossible, the odds of the Islanders making the playoffs are becoming less favorable by the day.

When speaking to the press on February 22nd, Lou Lamoriello left many questions to be desired regarding the Islanders' trade deadline strategy. For starters, he did not rule out the possibility of trading the team's 2024 first-round draft pick. "We made some pretty big player trades because you felt you could win. That's when you do it". Lamoriello also left the door open to restocking draft assets for the future: "No such thing as no one will be traded". However, he also pointed to the hiring of Patrick Roy as an example that he still believes this team can make the playoffs. Taking into account Lamoriello's mindset and the reality of where the Islanders currently stand in the playoff picture, what are the reasons to consider each trade deadline strategy?

The reason to buy: A better chance to win in the short term

There are two separate paths to take when buying at the trade deadline. The first of which is acquiring a rental player who will become a free agent in July as an attempt to jolt the team. Similar to a coaching change, Lamoriello would acquire a bottom-six forward to show the players that the front office still believes this team can win as currently constituted. The second path is to acquire a player and sign them to a multi-year contract extension. This was Lamoriello's approach last season and in 2020 with the acquisitions of J.G. Pageau and Bo Horvat.

In the rental player scenario, the Islanders would trade a lesser asset such as a 3rd or 4th-round draft pick, and create more offensive production from the bottom-six positions. In the trade and extend scenario, the team would trade a first and/or multiple second-round picks for a player to build around now and in the future. Suffice it to say, either scenario makes the team better in 2024 and potentially in 2025, depending on which path Lamoriello decides to take.

The reason to sell: Accumulate assets for the future

The past few trade deadline acquisitions of Pageau, Kyle Palmieri, and Horvat have left the Islanders without a first-round draft pick since Simon Holmstrom in 2019. The team also traded valuable assets to acquire Pierre Engvall and Alexander Romanov, while also losing draft picks in moving the salaries of Josh Bailey and Andrew Ladd. These decisions have led the Islanders to be ranked last in farm system talent, with very few prospects on the horizon.

While buying will make the Islanders better in 2024, their future has already been mortgaged greatly in trying to win between 2020 and 2023. For a franchise to sustain a winning mindset every season, younger talent needs to replace the older talent. This is especially important in a salary-cap league where prospects making the NHL minimum replace veteran talent that receives a larger contract elsewhere. For the Islanders, acquiring draft assets is a route worth considering since the farm system has failed to develop any high-end prospects in recent seasons. Even if the team only trades expiring contracts, they can evaluate their younger talent that has earned an opportunity such as Ruslan Ishakov, and reconstruct the roster in July.

The reason to stand pat: Do not mortgage the future and reconstruct in the offseason.

This scenario draws the least number of headlines but does not negatively impact the current roster either. The Islanders can keep both their players and assets which will allow for Roy to continue developing a system that works with their current roster. Since most of the team is under contract next season, a new system is best instituted starting with the remainder of 2023-2024. This scenario also leaves the door open to the Islanders making the playoffs since the team would not lose any talent.

Furthermore, the Islanders only have a few players set to reach free agency including Sebastian Aho, Cal Clutterbuck, and Matt Martin. Their trade value would only net the team a lower-tier draft pick, making a potential trade rather irrelevant to restocking for the future. If the Islanders traded from their controllable core such as Brock Nelson or Pageau, they will need to pay some of their salary for next season plus replace them in the offseason if Lamoriello still believes in this roster. Though this route would net the team great future assets, it also signals that the organization is rebuilding.

The most likely scenarios that Lamoriello will consider are trading for a rental player to replace Oliver Wahlstrom on the Isles' third line or standing pat and reconstructing in the offseason. With the team not garnering any momentum since the coaching change, the front office would be naive to mortgage more future assets to try and win now. Additionally, many of the players who have underperformed this season hold untradable contracts that could be revisited in the offseason. Given Lamoriello's confidence in this team and his short-term mindset, the Islanders are most likely to make minor additions or stand pat at the trade deadline.