Graziano: Some Possible Trade Targets For Islanders

Upgrades Needed To Compete In Bear Of A Division

Andy Graziano
December 04, 2019 - 3:27 pm
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The New York Islanders have quietly put together one of the best starts in the franchise’s long, storied history. In doing so, they have made themselves part of the conversation when discussing the league’s best squads through the first 26 games of the season. 

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However, the rest of the imposing Metropolitan Division decided to either stay hot or get hot at the same time.

The Washington Capitals, leading New York by seven points but having played three more games, simply won’t give in to the Islanders’ recent 17-3-2 run, matching them every step of the way at 20-4-5. The Philadephia Flyers (16-7-5) have won six of their last seven and should be a problem at least until the All-Star break. We all knew that the Carolina Hurricanes were going to be a pain (16-11-1), and the Pittsburgh Penguins somehow, someway are still afloat through massive injuries at 14-9-4. 

None of this should really be a worry unless the Islanders were to drop the games in hand that they hold over just about everyone in the division. But it speaks to the constant reminder that this is, by far, the toughest and best division in the sport. Still, with an incredible 73% of points won by New York to date, they have put themselves into a terrific spot. If they were to drop 50% of their remaining points the rest of the season, they would still finish with 95 points, likely good enough for a playoff spot.

After losing to the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night, the Islanders will finish the 2019 calendar year with 12 games in its final 28 days — eight on the road and no back-to-backs. Tampa Bay, Boston and Washington are all on the docket. The Isles have not played the big, bad Bruins yet and have not seen Washington since the season opened with a 2-1 loss way back on Oct. 4. 

Anders Lee has two goals in his last three games, Jordan Eberle finally got off the schneid Monday against Detroit, potting two, and Josh Bailey is playing like himself again since being reunited with Mathew Barzal on the top line. 

However, it’s no secret that this team still could use more on the offensive front. Brock Nelson went 10 games between late October and mid-November without a goal before hitting four over two games, then settling back into a scoreless next six. Derick Brassard has a single goal in his past six. Micheal Dal Colle has a single tally in 23 games. 

The start has been remarkable, but this team is still 22nd in goals scored in the league, having fired the fewest shots on goal (but with the eight-best shooting percentage). Close games are very stressful to continually compete in, and shooting percentages typically tend to regress to the norm. 

Who can Lou Lamoriello target to increase the Islanders’ playoff chances come April 2020? It’s never too early to think about it, with general managers talking frequently through the season, not just at the trade deadline. 

With my regular caveat of the trade market being extremely fluid and impossible to pin down with 100% certainty, here are some suggestions. (The Islanders are currently $5.5 million under the salary cap, courtesy of CapFriendly.com.)

Florida Panthers center Mike Hoffman
Rob Carr/Getty Images

1. Mike Hoffman, 30, $5.1M (UFA), 26-10-8-18
OK, I admit, I’ve been on the Hoffman train for two trade deadlines now. But, why get off now? Might as well ride it until we get to the last stop, as it’s likely not Florida for the power-play specialist. Hoffman averaged 26 goals per season before busting out in 2018-19 to the tune of 36. He has 34% of his career points on the power play, and while the Islanders are improved in that category this year, they could still use the help.

2. Tyler Toffoli, 27, $4.6M (UFA), 27-6-7-13
Toffoli has spent his entire eight-year career with the Kings, averaging 22 goals per season – and that’s with two stinkers (16 goals in 2016-17 and 13 in 2018-19). Of all the players on Los Angeles who could use a change of scenery, it screams to be him. He’d look nice next to Barzal and provide a power-play sniper on the off-wing (22% of career goals on the power play).

3. Jean-Gabriel Pageau, 27, $3.1M (UFA), 27-14-6-20
The Senators winger is having himself quite the year, on pace for 43 goals. However, a “buyer beware” label needs to be associated with his price, as he has never scored more than 19 over a full season (2015-16). Uncharted waters, for sure. 

In the “no way in heaven, but let a man dream” category, the defending champion St. Louis Blues are in quite the cap pickle at present, and Alex Pietrangelo just happens to be a pending unrestricted free agent coming off a deal valued at $6.5 million per season. Just saying. 

Doesn’t hurt to ask, does it? 

Follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyGraz_WFAN.