The New York Islanders decided to stay put at the trade deadline, placing their faith in the current roster as the team embarks on a playoff run.
For the first time since 1995, the New York Islanders entered the trade deadline with a general manager not named Mike Milbury or Garth Snow. Yet, this deadline felt eerily similar to those in years’ past, if not because the Islanders didn’t do anything at all.
On Monday, when the clock finally hit zero, the Islanders had yet to make a move. Twenty minutes later, Lou Lamoriello addressed the media and confirmed that the Islanders, indeed, had decided to stay put at the deadline.
“We weren’t going to sacrifice our plan here…” said Lamoriello, who joined the organization this summer. “You don’t do something just for the sake of doing it. We’re pleased with where we are.”
The Islanders were reported to have been seriously pursuing Senators forward Mark Stone earlier in the day, but failed to come to an agreement on the value of a contract extension. Other rumored targets — the Sens’ Matt Duchene, Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds and the Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello — all ended up on different teams.
Ultimately, Lamoriello decided that the asking price was just too high on many of these players. Plus, the Islanders are currently in first place on the merit of their current roster.
With 79 points in 61 games, the Islanders have a 99.8 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to SportsClubStats. But while the defense and goaltending have been excellent — the Islanders rank no. 1 in both goals-against per-game and save percentage — the goal-scoring has been more suspect. The club has scored the fewest goals in the entire division to this point.
The Islanders are converting just 16.9 percent of the time on the man advantage, which points to a lack of finishers. Only Anders Lee has more than 20 goals at this point of the season, whereas in 2017-18 Lee and John Tavares were at 30 goals and Jordan Eberle was at 22 goals.
When Lamoriello decided not to pull the trigger on a trade, he gave a ringing endorsement of the current roster. The Islanders are poised to make a deep playoff run, and Lamoriello is apparently content with his skaters and netminders.
“I don’t think too many of our players were uncomfortable because when you play well, you get rewarded for playing well,” Lamoriello told Andrew Gross of Newsday. “Hopefully, they see the trust and also the confidence we have in them.”
Prior to the deadline, second-line center Mathew Barzal had been paired with Leo Komarov and Tom Kühnhackl. This just wasn’t going to cut it. Instead, with Andrew Ladd poised to make a return from an ankle injury, the Islanders are going to be experimenting with internal options.
Joshua Ho-Sang, who was floated as a potential trade piece earlier this week, could also be counted upon to help the Islanders in the postseason. Lamoriello says that the Islanders won’t recall either Ho-Sang or fellow Sound Tigers forward Michael Dal Colle at the present, but that both are options for a late playoffs push.
Once again, this season is going to come down to the players on the ice executing their responsibilities.