We’ve covered a potential Zach Parise return, Anders Lee’s worth and some other questions about the current roster in part one of this Islanders mailbag.
In part two, we’ve got questions about potential trade additions, Josh Bailey’s No. 12 going to the rafters, prospects and potential free-agent additions next summer. On we go!
When you consider the possibility of bringing back Parise or adding a guy like Conor Garland to the lineup, the forward depth the Isles actually have this season begins to stand out. Let’s say they add a first-line winger. Dropping Simon Holmstrom down in the lineup makes it even more difficult for Oliver Wahlstrom and Julien Gauthier to get into the lineup regularly, and makes it more difficult for the AHL guys to see any meaningful time in the NHL. Plus we have five, maybe seven guys on the roster that can play center, if you include Pierre Engvall and Gauthier, who have played center before.
We boast a very strong D core (with size and mobility), lots of forward depth (with size/speed combo), and the best goalie in the world, plus a top 10 PK. Looks like a classic Lamoriello team. I see a lot of similarities between this team and the championship Devils teams. With just a league-average PP, I think this team looks like it could be a Cup contender. Staple, am I trippin? — Nick Q.
You may be tripping with Garland — hard to see how they could make that trade work even at half the cap hit. The top-10 PK needs a bit of an adjustment after Friday, though it was miles better on Saturday. It was maybe the only good part of that game.
I wouldn’t go so far as to compare these guys to that Devils core from 1995-2003 — Scott Niedermayer and Scott Stevens don’t really have any comps on this club, sorry. This team could be a solid playoff contender if all those things fall into place and then you never know.
Do you think Jean-Gabriel Pageau has lost a step? As a TV viewer, it’s hard to tell but I wonder why he’s not generated more offense over the last half-season spilling into these first couple of games. — Greg S.
His chemistry with Parise was very strong and they are similar style players. Pageau and Lee don’t really fit from what we’ve seen so far. Holmstrom is a pretty solid two-way player for a young kid, so I wonder if Parise doesn’t return whether Simon Holmstrom-Pageau becomes more of a thing.
At no point last year or this year has Holmstrom given any indication that he’s ready for the NHL. At this point he’s shown he’s about as capable as Michael Dal Colle was. Why are they trying to force it with him while Wally and Gauthier sit? — Billy P.
I wouldn’t go that far. Holmstrom is a miles-better skater and he is pretty good positionally — he’s far too deferential to really fit now on the top line but he doesn’t hurt you when he’s out there. He seems to be a better third-line fit at the moment.
Josh Bailey is among the leaders in Isles games played and points. Do you think he should have his jersey number retired? — Doc A.
That’s a conversation for down the road after Bailey retires. My initial feeling is no on retiring No. 12, but time tends to change things like that. He deserves a night to be honored for sure.
How do you feel about the Islanders’ current prospect pool? The experts tend to think it’s pretty barren with not a lot of talent destined to be NHL regulars. Does this feel in line with the things you’ve seen and heard, or is there reason to be bullish on the Islanders’ youth? — Nolan R.
I defer to our experts on this and Corey Pronman has them 30th in the league. It’s easy to see why since there’s no standout talent waiting in the wings.
His age cutoff is 22, though, and 23-year-old Ruslan Iskhakov is a player who draws the attention of the pro scouts I know who have watched him at Bridgeport. He’s in line for some NHL time this season.
William Dufour is off to a rough start in his second pro season and his skating needs to improve a lot to be considered an NHL regular. Isaiah George and Danny Nelson are the two top guys in the amateur ranks at the moment but both are a few years away.
So it is pretty barren, but they do have a handful of lottery tickets despite no first-rounders in the last four years. Maybe one or two hit.
Elliotte Friedman thought that if Shane Pinto was to be moved, the Isles would probably be interested. Is Pinto worth pursuing and what do you think the cost would be to acquire? Wahlstrom or Holmstrom? — Dan R.
Think you’d have to give up something better than Wahlstrom or Holmstrom for Pinto, who’s a 20-goal scorer in the NHL already. Plus there’s cap space — the Islanders don’t have enough to add Pinto at even $ 2 million without a bigger subtraction and the Sens have even less space than the Islanders at the moment.
He’s worth pursuing, sure. But I think you’d be looking at a first-rounder, a prospect and something off the roster to even start the conversation — the first two parts are the likely ask from Ottawa and the last part is a way to make the cap work, even if it goes to a third team along with another asset.
Hard to make those trade mechanics work.
Mayfield’s injury shows how weak they are on defense. Are there other options out there that the Islanders might explore? — Lynda K.
Not really. Teams aren’t just handing away capable third-pair guys these days. As injuries start to come into play around the league, it’s a realization that you need eight or nine D to get through a season.
I wouldn’t say the Isles are weak there, but losing anyone in their top five is tough to replace. Bolduc isn’t there as a regular yet, but he’s the best option they have.
Do you think the plan will be to work Gauthier into the fourth line to spell Martin or Clutterbuck? Would be curious what his speed would look like next to Casey Cizikas. — Michael F.
I think you keep Clutterbuck in the lineup until he gets hurt, which is inevitable at this point. He’s been effective so far. Martin probably could use a few rest spells, so putting Gauthier on the left or even Holmstrom isn’t a bad idea.
Which of the Bridgeport forwards get called up and contribute this year (Dufour, Ishakov, other)? — Jordan Z.
Iskhakov is off to another hot start so that puts him at the top of the list. Dufour hasn’t started well so we’ll see with him. In between you’ve got Arnaud Durandeau, who definitely adds some bottom-six attitude to a possible call-up, or maybe Kyle MacLean, who had a nice training camp and is playing well as another bottom-six option.
With an expected cap increase of ~$5.7M, $3.25 coming off in Clutterbuck/Martin and no real pressing contracts, what UFAs could be available? It seems like we are happy with our 7 D. While they seem okay with Holmstrom manning the wing this year and the 2nd/3rd line looking intact, Gauthier Czikas Holmstrom would be a fine fourth line. What options do we have to make that top line a true superstar line for $8 million — Mitchell C.
Bump up that number to $9-10 million and Lamoriello could look to Vancouver again. Elias Pettersson may want out after this year and you’d break the bank to add a player like that.
As far as older UFA types there’s no superstars, but Sam Reinhart would be an interesting add for the Isles. Old friend Jordan Eberle is 33 but maybe you’d even consider a deadline deal to bring him back in season. Unless it’s a trade for a mid-20s player ready to move on like Horvat, don’t think there’s any roster-altering superstar available for just money.
(Photo: Ben Ludeman / NHLI via Getty Images)