How Hard Should the Islanders Sell at the Trade Deadline?

ELMONT, NEW YORK - MARCH 19: Joe Pavelski #16 of the Dallas Stars is stopped during the first period by Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on March 19, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The New York Islanders are finally turning the corner on a disappointing season. After back-to-back conference finals appearances, the Islanders bottomed out this season. The team’s struggles started early in the year and kept getting worse as the season progressed. To prep for the building of their new arena, they spent the first 13 games on the road. When the homestand started, Brock Nelson and Ryan Pulock missed time due to injuries. Not to mention, a Covid outbreak caused 80 percent of the roster to miss multiple games. While the Islanders have turned things around, they can’t make a playoff run. So, how many players will the Islanders sell-off on Monday’s trade deadline?

General manager Lou Lamoriello has not foreshadowed any moves and seemingly wants to keep the same lineup next season. However, Kiefer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom look like they are ready to be regular starters in the lineup. It’s also hard to imagine that players on the team aren’t garnering any interest, such as goalie Semyon Varlamov. Lamoriello dealt with a tight salary cap budget this past offseason, and trading a big contract like Varlamov’s could help re-sign players this offseason.

Probable Moves

Semyon Varlamov

Semyon Varlamov is probably the most likely to be traded. Varly began his 2021-22 season slowly after recovering from hip surgery. He posted varying numbers and didn’t seem comfortable in his net. Varlamov struggled to get consistent ice time after returning, as the Islanders struggled with a Coivd outbreak that resulted in the cancelation of eight games. The NHL then paused the season at the end of December due to multiple teams having Covid outbreaks.

Varlamov had an up-and-down January before he missed eight games after testing positive for Covid in the middle of February. Varly had an awful three-game stretch between February 26 to March 7, where he let up 13 goals but made 108 saves. Varlamov finally turned the corner over his last two games, splitting a win and a shootout loss. He helped the Islanders beat the Winnipeg Jets, stopping 27 of 29 shots, and looked good against the Washington Capitals, where he let in three goals on 29 shots.

Varlamov made 37 saves in his most recent game, a 4-2 victory against Dallas on Saturday night. The win is his fourth on the year and lowers his goals-against average to 2.85 for the season. Teams looking for goalie depth will target Varlamov as a trade target. He is vastly better than the Oilers starter Mike Smith but could also be a backup for a team like Toronto. Varlamov will take $5 million off the Islanders’ cap hit next season.

Cal Clutterbuck is another name that has swirled around in trade rumors. A staple of the Isles’ identity line, Clutterbuck is perfect for a team that needs gritty bottom-six players who smash the boards and play well defensively. His value is more on the intangibles, as he only has six goals and eight assists through 58 games but sports a whopping 224 hits this season. Clutterbuck will not cost much to trade, but he is a surefire rental and could return to the Islanders during the offseason.

Interesting Moves

The interesting moves are players I am neutral about leaving. Watching some of these players over the years pulls on the heartstrings, but other guys on the team will need contract extensions soon. The Islanders also have decent depth in the American Hockey League, and younger players can have a chance to step up.

Josh Bailey

Josh Bailey has been an Islander for life and has a legit chance to pass Denis Potvin and Bryan Trottier in career games as an Islander. For seemingly no reason, Bailey is unfairly hated in minority sections of the fan base. As shown by the number of games played, management trusts him. Bailey is flashy but plays the game the right way. He is a setup man first and foremost, which drives people nuts when he passes while in the slot but is undoubtedly an integral part of the Islanders’ recent success.

So, why would I not miss him? The Islanders have to move on from a few players next year, with Bellows and Wahlstrom ready to take on bigger roles. Out of the top members of the team (Brock Nelson, Matt Barzal, Anders Lee, Anthony Beauvillier, and Kyle Palmieri), I think that Bailey is the one I’d miss the least. He will have a $5 million cap hit over the next two years, and a few players have expiring contracts in that time.

Anthony Beauvillier

Anthony Beauvillier was the subject of trade rumors during the first quarter of the season. Beauvillier got the chance to step up this year as he skated on the second line with Nelson and Bailey. The increased ice time hasn’t affected the 24-year old, as he has a measly 27 points in 5 games. His goal-scoring ability is trending down from the 18 goals he scored two seasons ago. The Islanders can still get a haul for him, and maybe a change of scenery can unlock the 39-point season he had in 2019-20.

Scott Mayfield

The last player in this section is Scott Mayfield. Mayfield is another average player who gets too much hate from the fanbase. He often gets compared to the top defensemen on the team, and that isn’t fair. The most prominent criticism of Mayfield comes from his turnovers. According to Hockey Reference, Mayfield has 49 giveaways in 5 games. He is on pace to match his career-high of 72 that he set back in the 2018-19 season.

Mayfield has a small contract that expires after the 2022-23 season so that teams can get a startable defenseman with virtually no cap hit. The Islanders have young defensemen, like Robin Salo and Bode Wilde, who can step into starting roles next season. Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz seem to like Andy Greene, Sebastian Aho, and Zdeno Chara, so the Islanders have options to fill Mayfield’s spot.

The Verdict

The Islanders are a mystery team heading into the trade deadline. Though they could, and probably should, make room in the lineup for younger players, GM Lou Lamoriello has been silent on trade negotiations. The players in these two tiers have the biggest chance of being traded from the team come Monday’s deadline. Varlamov would provide cap relief, and there is an actual market for players like him and Clutterbuck.

The players listed in the second tier have a small chance of leaving, as rumors trades for Bailey and Mayfield have existed over multiple seasons. Beauvillier is a contender to be moved, but there are no reports of trades involving him. Lamoriello could straight-up not pull the trigger at the deadline either, taking into account the Conference Final runs of the previous two seasons.

Monday will be a compelling day for the Islanders, as we may say goodbye to a few friendly faces.

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