Earlier today Islanders GM/president Lou Lamoriello announced that team captain Anders Lee had tore his ACL and will be out for at least the rest of this current season. The Isles now have a hole to fill on the top line to play alongside Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle. New York has a couple of options on the table, but is a trade the way to go?
At last year’s trade deadline the Islanders acquired center Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for three very high draft picks, and although that was a lot to part with the deal has worked out great so far for the Islanders. They originally made this move because of the team’s lack of scoring at the time and Pageau has been a consistently putting the puck in the net throughout this past year.
The team is now in a different position now than they were a year ago because they’re not lacking anything in particular but are now without a key player in Lee. The guy that many fans want to replace him is Buffalo Sabres’ forward and former league MVP Taylor Hall. Hall has been rumored to be coming to the Islanders for the past couple of seasons, but a deal has never come to fruition. Now seems like a real possibility for the Islanders to acquire Hall if they want him, as the Sabres currently have the worst record in all of the NHL and they may be looking to part ways with some of their top players including Hall.
The 29 year old signed a one year deal with Buffalo this past off-season and now that Lee was placed on the LTIR (long term injured reserve) the front office will have some cap room to work with. Hall has the ability to put up big numbers and that would be a big help in trying to negate the loss of Lee. However the former Hart trophy winner has only scored two goals so far this season. The cost to acquire him would probably be at least a first round pick in this year’s draft. The Islanders showed last year that they are willing to give up picks to bring in talent, but, in my opinion, it would not be a smart decision to bring in a guy who is having a poor season because there are better options to replace Anders Lee.
I believe that the Isles best option to replace Lee is already on the roster in the form of rookie Kieffer Bellows. He is a former first round pick who has been in and out of the lineup for the past couple of years. Bellows has stepped up and has already scored three times in a two game stretch this season. He has yet to have consistent playing time in the big leagues and now is the perfect time for him to have an opportunity to play every night and that would finally let the team know what they have in their former first round pick.
Additionally if Bellows starts to perform poorly and the team wants to put him back on the taxi squad then they will have the opportunity to have rookie Otto Koivula or even veteran Leo Komarov step back in the lineup and see if they can produce anything.
In addition to the chance of adding Taylor Hall, the Islanders might have the chance to acquire guys like the Devils’ Kyle Palmieri as well at the trade deadline, but continuing to have Kieffer Bellows in the lineup should be the way to go. All in all, the loss of Anders Lee is huge, but the way that Bellows has been playing has really been a big help and the Islanders are still in a great position to make a run to the postseason and hopefully win the cup.
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