Stingy defensive play has become the identity of the New York Islanders, a team who is looking to make it to at least the third round of the playoffs for the third consecutive season. But as their season-opening 13-game road trip ends, the defense is the problem.
Sure, the forwards have not held up their end of the bargain, either. But at the very least, the team has an awful shooting percentage that is bound to turn around. Kyle Palmieri, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, and Zach Parise are too good to have scored a combined two goals thus far. So the offense will get better. The defense? Well, you cannot guarantee it.
Over the past few years, the team’s defense relied on Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock. Both of them are still very good. But now Pulock is out for 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury. Devon Toews and Nick Leddy have departed in subsequent seasons, with the team looking to Noah Dobson for a breakout. Unfortunately, Dobson has not given them that. Scott Mayfield is a fine enough bottom-four player but is currently on the top pair. Both Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene have looked too old for the game. A quick change needs to be made with the Islanders sitting last in the Metropolitan Division.
General manager Lou Lamoriello made the first step, calling up 23-year-old Robin Salo from the AHL. A second-round pick from 2017, Salo had 30 points in 51 games in Sweden last year. His debut season in North America has started strong, as Salo has scored twice with six assists in 14 games. Still, Salo has a good amount of risk in him. If he is not what the team needs immediately, which is an offensively capable defender who is not a total liability on the other side, then that hurts. Even if he is, then they still need an upgrade. It may be trade time already. Here are some options.
Samuel Girard, Colorado Avalanche
There are murmurs that Colorado could be listening to offers for Girard. The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers had speculated that Girard was a big part of the Avalanche’s offer for star center Jack Eichel before he was traded to Vegas. However, with Bowen Byram emerging, Girard may be expendable. In terms of what the Isles are looking for, he’s perfect. Girard has nine points in 11 games this year. Last year, he had 32 in 48. The problem is going to be the cost. The asking price would probably be a first-round pick minimum. Also, Girard has six years left on his contract with a $5 million cap hit.
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
Sitting in sixth place in the Central Division, the Stars are not off to a good start. However, they are actually in a better spot than the Islanders. Still, if they begin to tail off, then Klingberg could become available. With just a year left on his contract, he would be a very desirable piece on the market. Klingberg has three assists in 10 games so far. In 53 games in 2020-21, he scored 36 points. Unfortunately, he is a right-handed shot, which does not help the Greene/Chara problem for when Pulock returns.
Shayne Gostisbehere, Arizona Coyotes
It is no secret that the Coyotes are looking to sell. They have just five points in 16 games. Any good player is on the market. After they acquired a second-round pick for taking on Gostisbehere’s contract, the Coyotes have seen his value go back up. He currently has 13 points, which leads the team by a lot. Lawson Crouse‘s eight are the next closest. Gostisbehere is a free agent after 2022-23, and the Coyotes could retain some of his $4.5 million cap hit. He definitely has the offensive skill to lead a power-play without being the defensive problem that Chara and Greene have been so far.
Nick Leddy, Detroit Red Wings
Remember me? The Red Wings are actually sitting in a playoff spot at the time of this article due to them having played more games than most of the teams below them in the rankings. Leddy’s offensive upside is what the Islanders are missing. The same goes for Toews, although they can’t get him back. Leddy has six points in 18 games for the Red Wings thus far. Since he is a rental on a rebuilding team, a reunion just months after Leddy was dealt to Detroit feels possible.
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