To the surprise of many, the Islanders are on fire. Fans are flocking to games in full force, and there is a palpable feeling of excitement on Long Island.
That has put the team in an unexpected, precarious situation. The Trade Deadline is rapidly approaching, meaning the first-place Islanders will be in a position to add reinforcements for the Playoff push.
One position to address is center. The Islanders only have four true centers on the NHL roster, and in the minors, their only options are Tanner Fritz, veteran Stephen Gionta and inexperienced youngsters Travis St. Denis and Otto Koiuvla.
The Islanders must be proactive: they cannot let this tremendous, historic season be for naught because of one injury to a center. If someone goes down, it is simply inexcusable for a top NHL team to have Tanner Fritz playing every night.
There are plenty of players available on the trade market, including stars, middle-six forwards, and depth centers. Here are three players I think the Islanders should target, and hopefully acquire, at the Trade Deadline to potentially save their season down the line.
Matt Duchene, Ottawa Senators
Matt Duchene is one of the many hot names circulating amongst the NHL right now due to his expiring contract. While tallying 14 goals and six assists in his past 19 games, Duchene has emerged as a bright spot on a struggling Senators team.
Senators GM Pierre Dorion has a very difficult decision to make — trade his best player for future assets, or risk losing him for nothing this summer. As each day passes, the latter becomes more and more likely, so be on the lookout for the Islanders to make the big splash and acquire Duchene.
Potential trade: Matt Duchene to the Islanders for a 2019 first-round pick, Oliver Wahlstrom
Marcus Johansson, New Jersey Devils
Similar to the Senators, the Devils are a franchise between a rock and a hard place, and they will be looking to trade away players of value for draft picks and prospects. Marcus Johansson would be a perfect addition to the Islanders middle-six forward unit, plus he would not require the king’s ransom that Duchene would.
Johansson would be a familiar face for head coach Barry Trotz, as the two would be reunited after spending three seasons together in Washington. In 69 Playoff games, Johansson has tallied nine goals and 30 points, giving him much-needed experience when the games count. Lastly, he has managed to stay healthy this season, dispelling the rumors that he is concussion-prone.
Potential trade: Marcus Johansson to the Islanders for a 2020 third-round pick, Joshua Ho-Sang
Colby Cave, Edmonton Oilers
I bet you didn’t expect to see this name on the list. Cave, a center for the Oilers, has quietly impressed this season after being claimed off waivers from the Boston Bruins.
Cave is a physical center who had a brief run on the Bruins’ top line earlier in the year. He could be added for cheap, giving the Islanders a depth center that can step in if there is an injury. Not to mention, the Islanders have a history of trading with the Oilers, so Garth Snow can return from the darkness to do what he does best.
Potential trade: Colby Cave to the Islanders for a 2020 sixth-round pick
Duchene, Johansson and Cave would give the Islanders exactly what they need: depth down the middle in case of an injury. Don’t be surprised if one of these players is donning the New York blue and orange sweater by the end of the month.