With the Islanders leading the league in goals allowed while being tied for 28th in team save percentage, some have speculated lately that the Islanders could be looking to improve their goaltending. Instead, it appears their focus may be on the back end. In an appearance on TSN 690, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic reported (audio link) that if GM Garth Snow believes that they can get into a playoff spot, he would like to add a top-four defenseman by the trade deadline.
Heading into play tonight, New York finds themselves out of a Wild Card spot but only by a single point. Given just how tight the Metropolitan Division is (the Isles are four points out of a tie for second but are only two points up on last place), their fortunes could change either way in a hurry which will make Snow’s decision that much more difficult, especially if they go on a losing streak.
The Islanders haven’t had much go their way on the back end so far this season beyond the play of Nick Leddy. Veteran Calvin de Haan is done for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery while Johnny Boychuk is also on IR at the moment. They were hoping that some of their younger defenders such as Scott Mayfield, Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech could move into regular roles and the results have been rather mixed. They’ve each had some good moments but some rough ones as well and it’s reasonable to expect that to continue down the stretch.
[Related: Islanders Depth Chart from Roster Resource]
While New York no longer has Travis Hamonic, they do have several chips to work with as a result of the offseason trade to Calgary last summer in an extra first-round pick plus a pair of second-rounders (one in 2018 and one in 2019). Selling teams will certainly find those to be appealing while the Islanders may be more open to parting with one since they have close to their full complement of their own draft choices still.
Even if the Islanders start to falter in the coming weeks, there’s a case to be made to still try to add some defensive help to try to make a playoff push. While pending UFA center John Tavares is saying all the right things publicly, there’s still no guarantee he’ll re-sign by July. A good playoff run would certainly help their pitch to keep him around. Between the picks and a strong group of prospects, the Islanders certainly have the pieces to make a move so they are certainly going to be worth watching between now and the February 26th trade deadline.