Entering this season, the New York Islanders were a Stanley Cup favorite. But the 2021-22 season has been a year out of hell for them. Sitting 17 points out of the playoffs and living on a prayer, this team is not in a position to buy at the trade deadline. However, they still are good enough to where this season could be seen as a fluke, although there is concern that this is the start of a downfall with a weak farm system plaguing them. It will not be a big surprise if Zach Parise is extended rather than dealt. Zdeno Chara just broke the record for most games played by a defender, but he is clearly on his last legs. He could be a depth option for a contender. As always with General Manager Lou Lamoriello, the rumor mill is quiet. We just have to wait for what the Isles do.
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Current Record: 21-23-8
Division Standings: Sixth in the Metropolitan
Buyers or Sellers: Sellers
Let us start with the most obvious trade chip that the Islanders have. Clutterbuck is a rental on a somewhat hefty $3.5 million cap hit, but half of that can be retained. A very good defensive forward who can help just about any penalty kill, Clutterbuck is a staple on the infamous Islanders’ fourth line. He should not be worth more than a mid-round pick thanks to a lack of offensive output, but he can still be valuable to a team in need of defense.
The Islanders like Clutterbuck and have signed his linemates Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin long-term. But they would still have a chance at Clutterbuck in the offseason, and they need to build draft capital. In terms of rentals, Clutterbuck is the best that the Islanders have to offer and are likely to trade away.
Lamoriello has indicated that he does not want to give up on the team’s core. Bailey would be the closest to the core that could be moved. The 32-year-old has been an Islander for his entire career and is still second on the team in assists this year with 20. But he has been visibly slower and has struggled. Bailey has a cap hit of $5 million on a contract that has two more seasons left on it. If he still has some value, then shipping off Bailey before the collapse fully comes would be wise.
Varlamov is an interesting trade piece. Like Bailey, his cap hit is $5 million, but his contract expires after next season. In addition, the veteran goaltender has been wildly inconsistent this season. However, he has still managed a .912 save percentage. This comes a season after he had a .929 save percentage and a 2.04 goals against average, with a league-leading seven shutouts in 2020-21, finishing fifth in Vezina voting.
The problem lies with Varlamov’s inconsistency, plus the rise of Ilya Sorokin. The sophomore netminder has a .922 save percentage while taking over the starting load from Varlamov. The Islanders could clear cap space for next season by making a deal with a goalie-needy team. Edmonton is one that immediately comes to mind. The only issue is for next season. Trading Varlamov makes getting a backup a top priority in the offseason. The UFA goalie market is relatively thin, so they should be cautious.
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