The Islanders made a trade last Thursday at the NHL Draft, but we’re still waiting for the “hockey trade” GM Lou Lamoriello referenced as one of the keys to improving the roster at last season’s trade deadline in March.
""We're not going to get better by just adding players. We're going to get better by making hockey trades. That's the conversation we've been having the last few days."- Lou Lamoriello
Truth is, we’re not just waiting for the “hockey trade” this off-season, we’re waiting for the first of its kind during Lamoriello’s tenure as General Manager. Last spring, Michel Anderson defined a hockey trade as a trade “where both teams give up something they have in excess for something they don't have.”
I’ll go a step further and add that it’s a trade that involves NHL players on both sides. A trade where a team has extra draft capital and moves a pick or two in exchange for a player is not a hockey trade – at least for me. You may see it differently.
By that standard, the Islanders during Lamoriello tenure have not made a hockey trade. They’ve made trades with NHL skaters such as Nick Leddy to Detroit for Richard Panik and a 2nd round pick or Matt Martin for Eamon McAdam but have not made a move where a valuable piece of the Islanders roster was traded for a player that helped fill a greater need on the current team.
The consequential trades for the Isles over the past four seasons have come at the trade deadline and in each case, draft picks were exchanged for a player in the final year of their contract. In 2020, JG Pageau was traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Islanders for a 2020 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, and a conditional 3rd rounder in 2022. The same day, the team acquired Andy Greene from the Devils for a 2021 2nd rounder and prospect David Quenneville.
A year later, Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac came to Long Island for a 2021 1st round pick, 2022 4th round pick, AJ Greer and Mason Jobst.
There was also the salary dump of Andrew Ladd to Arizona along with draft picks, Johnny Boychuk’s LTIR status being shifted to Buffalo’s salary cap, and another trade where the Islanders were on the receiving end of two second-round picks. That’s all I’ll say there.
You get the gist. The type of “hockey trade” that Lamoriello himself said they needed to make to get better hasn’t been part of the formula for roster construction to this point.
On draft night, there were rumors and then denials that a trade for Vancouver's JT Miller was in the works between the Islanders and Canucks.
One theory was that a deal fell apart because the Islanders and Miller were unable to work out an extension. On Monday, Elliotte Friedman reported that at the time of trade discussions, Vancouver was not allowing teams to negotiate a trade extension. If that changes, the Isles could revisit provided that the 13th pick wasn't what Vancouver was looking for in return as the main asset for the 32-goal scorer that put up a career-best 99 points a season ago. Otherwise, curious as to an alternative package that could land Miller on the Island.
The prevailing thought was that the most tradable pieces on this roster to fill an existing need are Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, and Semyon Varlamov. Well, Beauvillier was sitting at the team’s draft table in Montreal, Kevin Kurz of The Athletic says Bailey isn’t being shopped and Lou touted the Varlamov-Sorokin goalie tandem as the strength of the team. If all of that is true then the elusive “hockey trade,” at least by my definition, will remain so and the Islanders will look to improve through other means.
But maybe, for Lou, any trade is a hockey trade, and much like we over-examined and dissected Lamoriello's "new voice" comment after Barry Trotz's firing, we've put way too much emphasis on those two words. Hockey. Trade.
There are still conversations to be had and deals to be made. As long as the 2022-23 Islanders are improved, that's all anyone will care about come October. Hockey trade be damned.