The Islanders have two games left before Friday’s trade deadline and begin a trip north to Winnipeg and Minnesota, having gotten used to their season sitting on a knife’s edge.
Going into Sunday, the Islanders remained clear of all five teams below them in the Eastern Conference wild-card race, but the game situation remains at a disadvantage in terms of games in hand, especially with the Red Wings and Sabers having emerged as good. loyal contenders.
Unlike the Capitals, who surveyed the landscape and decided to sell off some assets, with Garnet Hathaway and Dmitry Orlov going to Boston for the draft earlier this week, it would be a surprise to see Lou Lamoriello send the pending free agents agents of, regardless of math
Lamoriello is in his fourth decade as an NHL general manager, and that’s not his way of selling. It’s always impossible to speak for sure about Lamoriello’s intentions because of the strange position he has regarding the information coming from the Islanders. But with the Isles quietly clinging to a playoff spot right now, the traditional buy-or-sell construction probably isn’t quite the calculation it does. Think about it more than buy or hold.
The Isles have players who could be considered assets if they are dealt: Scott Mayfield, Semyon Varlamov, Zach Parise and Hudson Fasching will all be unrestricted free agents this summer and will be useful to contending teams. But really, it’s as hard to see any of them wanting to go as Lamoriello’s shipping assets.
This pair of games against the Jets and Wild, however, could be the Isles’ last chance to prove to their general manager that they’re worth adding more after acquiring Bo Horvat late last month. Horvat, who signed an eight-year extension before playing his first game with the Isles, was as much a long-shot as an immediate help, though the All-Star quickly became one of the most reliable offensive pieces in the lineup.
With this summer’s first-round pick sent conditional to Vancouver along with top prospect Aatu Raty, the Isles are unlikely to have enough in their pockets to deal with any of the big names at the deadline. But they have salary cap space — $6.7 million as of Saturday, on pace to become $7.7 million on deadline day — and roster needs.
That is, a mobile defender and another player who can score would be at the top of the list. During Friday’s loss to the Kings, the Isles seemed to be facing an offensive wall, and with Mathew Barzal considered week-to-week, the lineup lacks skill and dynamism right now. In a 3-2 game in which the Isles had just 14 shots on five-on-five, they couldn’t find enough time in the offensive zone to pressure Jonathan Quick when it mattered.
“When you play against that 1-1-3 [forecheck]they jump to the red [line]. Unless you have a good dump[-ins], they break a defender back, their goalie can take it,” Paris told The Post. “It’s really hard to predict that.”
That’s a fancy way of saying the Kings found a way to break the Islanders’ streak, something that can’t happen for a team that has struggled all year to generate offense in any other way.
This is nothing new. The Isles have struggled to hit the ground running for much of the season. It bit them on Friday, but they made it this far.
Can they prove it’s worth getting more help?