The New York Islanders have managed to surprise their fan base this season.
Yes, they lost John Tavares via free agency to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But, they have come out of the dark tunnel stronger. At this point in the season, they sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 17-13-4. Overall, its not a bad record and if they make a trade to bolster their lineup, they could potentially get back into the playoffs.
Need Another Centre?
There is no doubt that the New York Islanders could use another top centre in their lineup.
At this moment, Brock Nelson is the centre on the top line. He’s been paired with Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee. All-in-all, this line has played very well together. All three forwards are producing in the offensive zone. They each have at least 17 points and have been extremely pivotal on the power-play.
Unfortunately, this line hasn’t been my favourite. While Barzal has been outstanding 5v4/5v3 this season, he isn’t producing at 5v5 at a consistent rate. Per NaturalStatTrick.com’s ranking, Barzal ranks at 54th in the National Hockey League in 5v5 total assists. For someone who was beating up the league last season at full strength, it’s surprising to see him struggle this season at full strength.
If you look at the percentages, 65% of Barzal’s Total Assists were at full strength last season. Flash forward to December of 2018 and you see a dramatic drop for Barzal. At this moment, 46% of his Total Assists are at full strength. So, it’s evident that something has to change. If the Islanders are struggling to score goals at full strength, it’s going to be a bumpy road to the finish line.
You could argue that perhaps Barzal is on the wrong line and that Trotz should consider switching Barzal and Nelson. But, why would you advocate for Nelson and Barzal swapping when Nelson has been very good. All of Nelson’s points have come at full strength, so it would make absolutely no sense to flip them.
Instead, Lou Lamoriello, general manager of the New York Islanders could go in two directions. He could either trade for a top winger to pair with Barzal or he could acquire a top centre to alleviate stress off on Barzal’s shoulders.
If I’m Lou Lamoriello, I’d be looking to acquire Los Angeles Kings centre, Anze Kopitar.
The Los Angeles Kings have had an abysmal season and Rob Blake, general manager of the Kings might decide to have a fire sale. Blake has got many huge contracts on his roster and might look to unload some of his higher profile players in order to upgrade his farm system.
My assumption is that Blake will look to trade Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin and Jonathan Quick. If Blake can trade some of his high priced talent, he can lower his salary cap spend and grab some top prospects.
In terms of the Islanders, Kopitar would be a great fit. He is 31 years old is under contract till the 2023-2024 season. In addition, Kopitar carries a 10 million USD cap hit per season.
While Kopitar has had a rough season, he is worth 10 million USD per year. He’s just playing on a struggling squad and unfortunately is having a hard time producing in the offensive zone. But, he’s shown in the past that he can dominate 5v5. Last season, he had a career high in Goals/60 with 0.98 goals and posted 1.26 Total Assists/60.
The only caveat is that Kopitar has a No Movement Clause. However, the Islanders have a much better chance of making the playoffs than the Kings do and this would be an opportunity to play in front of loyal fan base in New York. While it might take some convincing, Kopitar could be happy in Long Island.
In addition, Islanders fans would be ecstatic too. They’d have another top centre and would have three solid offensive lines. Every team in the NHL is looking to emulate what the Pittsburgh Penguins have done. The Penguins have three strong offensive lines and have started a trend. Each team across the league is looking to have three elite centremen on their top three lines. And if you look across the NHL, it’s evident that teams are finding success doing that. Just look at the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Winnipeg Jets as an example.
stats from NHL.com, hockey-reference.com and naturalstattrick.com
featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals