The Islanders Have Limited Options as Sellers at Trade Deadline

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 24: Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello speaks to the media after the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

In all actuality, the Islanders have no shot at making the playoffs. An 11-game losing streak from early November to early December dug the Islanders in a hole that the team could not get out of. Since then, the Islanders have won as many games as they have lost. Though multiple Covid outbreaks hindered much of the team’s season, the Islanders may opt to sell some pieces at the trade deadline. Fan support has soured because of the frequent losses, but the answer shouldn’t be ‘let’s trade everyone off this team.’ In this article, I will be going over why the Islanders have limited options as sellers during this year’s trade deadline.

No-Trade Clauses

The Islanders have five players under contract that have no-trade clauses. They are Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Kyle Palmieri, J.G. Pageau, and Semyon Varlamov. While Lee and Pageau probably won’t be offered in trade talks, the other three players could bring in huge hauls. Nelson, Palmieri, and Varlamov would be decent depth adds for most playoff teams.

In no way do the no-trade clauses mean that those players are off the market. However, each player has embraced the team’s culture and probably won’t consent to be moved. Lee was drafted by the Islanders, plus is the team’s current captain, so his movement is totally out of the question. Nelson was also drafted by the Islanders and has been a top forward since his rookie season. Islanders management even stuck with Nelson after his lackluster 2017-18 season, where he was also shopped at the trade deadline. Nelson has little incentive to leave despite the Islanders not making the playoffs this season.

Even with a no-trade clause, Pageau likely won’t be traded because the Islanders gave up so much to get him to Long Island. The Islanders gave up a 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2022 third-round pick to acquire him, so trading him three seasons later, and probably for less than what they got for him, is not in the cards for this team.

Palmieri and Varlamov are the last two and most likely to be traded away. Varlamov’s play this year suffered from lingering offseason hip surgery. Varly’s stats are still favorable as he has a .916 save percentage and a 2.57 goals-against average through 15 games. He would be beneficial for a team like Toronto or Vegas, who are looking for consistent backup goalies. Varlamov may say no to a trade because of his usage in New York. Coach Barry Trotz has continued to use Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin as tandem goalies, and Varly could prioritize starting more in net over being second-fiddle on a championship roster.

Palmieri could say no to being traded because of his location. Palmieri spent six seasons with the New Jersey Devils, with the Devils finishing 7th or 8th in their division in five of those six seasons. He also missed games this year due to the birth of his child. After a four-year $20 million contract this past offseason, he is probably not keen on uprooting his life to be on a contender.

Long-Term, High-Pay Contracts

Realistically, the Islanders have two players on their roster whose contracts expire after this season. Cal Clutterbuck and Zach Parise would be perfect as trade deadline rentals for the Islanders to deal. Most contending teams are already close to the salary cap ceiling, and it wouldn’t make much sense to trade for a player like Brock Nelson, who is set to make $6 million each of the following four seasons. That makes the one year of $3.5 million for Clutterbuck and 750K of Parise way more palatable in the eyes of a contender.

The Islanders may have to package a pick with the player they are trading away to get rid of some of the bigger contracts. It would make no sense for the Islanders to do that. None of the players on the Islanders roster are bad enough to warrant overpaying to get a contract off the books. These long-term contracts with sizable salary cap hits will be tough to move to contending teams. Lee, Nelson, Palmieri, Pageau, Bailey, and Matt Barzal all have contracts with a cap hit of over $5 million this season.

The Nashville Predators and New York Rangers are the only two teams in a playoff spot and have over $5 million in cap space. The Predators have been shopping Filip Forsberg, despite having a stellar season and maybe looking for some depth in their bottom six. The Rangers are still super young and have plenty of scorers, and they may also be looking at the high-priced grinders on the Islanders.

A team that’s not in the playoffs, but could be looking for veterans for future runs, are the Columbus Blue Jackets. Patrik Laine is having a career renaissance this season, and a few big contracts will expire at the year’s end. Columbus already had $10 million in cap room, and getting some veteran leadership may not be bad for the team.

Besides those three teams, the Islanders will have difficulty moving some of their larger contracts. In the worst scenario, they could always retain some money, but if the point is to free up cap room, it wouldn’t be worth it to move even the most egregious of those contracts.

Related: Should The Islanders Trade For Jake DeBrusk?

Contending for Next Season

General manager Lou Lamoriello will have to replace every player that the Islanders lose to trades in free agency. Noah Dobson and Kieffer Bellows are two notable contracts expiring, who will likely sign hold-over contracts. That being said, the Islanders have $2 million in cap space, so some salary cap acrobatics will need to take place this offseason. Someone with a hefty contract will need to go.

Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom will probably be top-line wingers next season. This brings the question of who not be in the starting lineup. There’s a chance that Parise may not be back next season, but Palmieri and Bailey have been healthy scratches in favor of Bellows and Wahlstrom.

If I had to choose, it would be either Palmieri or Varlamov. Both have helped the Islanders in playoff runs and have underperformed this season. Both players have missed extensive time due to injuries and Covid and are not worth the future cap hit. Palmieri has 11 points this season, tied with Cal Clutterbuck, who skates two fewer minutes of ice time and doesn’t have a role as a scorer.

For Varly, Sorokin looks like he will be the future stand-alone number one goaltender. The Islanders have had so much success finding quality goaltending off of free agency that I think a journeyman could sign for $1.5 million in the offseason and put up good enough numbers behind Sorokin.

Another hurdle is getting past both players’ no-trade clauses. Varlamov and Palmieri have spent time on non-playoff teams, while their deepest playoff runs happened with the Islanders. It will be interesting to see if either player would waive their no-movement clause for a chance at another championship. Unfortunately for Islanders fans, the roster moves will probably be hard to come by when the trade deadline hits.

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