NHL Trade Deadline: New York Islanders forward targets, tradeables

Will he score a 2nd goal as an Islander? - USA TODAY Sports

With several forward prospects in the system, the Islanders have a few unrestricted free agent forwards who could draw interest at the trade deadline.

The NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday, April 3, and the New York Islanders are seen as unlikely to be very active. That said, whether coming or going, trade opportunities sometimes present themselves -- for example, Chicago is rumored to be pursuing Islanders players -- so we'll take a look at who is in play.

Overview

The Islanders have drafted to be deep down the middle, notably collecting John Tavares, Brock Nelson, Casey Cizikas, Johan Sundstrom and Ryan Strome over the last four years. However, filling in down the middle until more of those prospects arrive has been a challenge over the past few seasons.

That said, Cizikas has been with the NHL squad all season (though often used on the wing), Nelson has had an outstanding first pro season in Bridgeport, Sundstrom has likewise impressed in the AHL, and Strome's junior season is over and he's ready to turn pro.

On the wings, the draft picks have not developed as well, though some of the above could end up playing wing (add Anders Lee, if he signs, to that list), and Nino Niederreiter and John Persson are likely to push for NHL jobs within a year.

Who's Available?

Marty Reasoner -- Last year Reasoner was added to provide much-needed bottom-line help at center, but he had a very disappointing season. He has rebounded some in 2013 -- enough to be a useful depth piece for a playoff team -- and his faceoff performance remains strong (a team high 53.2%), so if a team offered something for the pending unrestricted free agent, it's hard to see the Isles turning them down.

Brad Boyes -- Also a pending unrestricted free agent, Boyes is probably less "available" but possibly more in demand for a team looking for secondary scoring. Newsday has reported that the Isles are interested in re-signing the winger, but given his up-and-down history and the first line's up-and-down performance, finding the right money and term for an extension might be tricky. Boyes has been good, but not so good that you stop hoping a forward prospect will be better in a year or three.

Keith Aucoin -- Aucoin is good on faceoffs (52.9% this year) and useful as a depth forward with hockey IQ and scoring punch. He's been a nice waiver find this season, stepping right back in after a three-week stretch of healthy scratches, but it's tough to picture the journeyman and AHL scoring dynamo in the Isles' future plans.

Nielsen's effectiveness has always been heavily dependent on his elite skating, so a decline at some point is to be expected. But at age 28?


Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey -- With their development coinciding entirely with the Islanders post-2008 rebuild, Okposo and Bailey have had flashes of skill mixed with bouts of maddening inconsistency.

Some Isles fans are ready to cut bait with one or both of the 24- and 23-year olds, but that's unlikely to happen. Still, if the Islanders pursue acquisitions, other teams are likely to inquire about one or the other.

Frans Nielsen -- Nielsen has been a very valuable and still-underrated center during the Islanders darkest years, but he's quietly had a disappointing 2013 season, the first year of his four-year, $11 million contract extension. Undersized, Nielsen's effectiveness has always been heavily dependent on his elite skating, so a decline at some point is to be expected. But at age 28? It's probably too early for that.

Nielsen is also handicapped by a perception that he's "not a true #2 center" -- a perception that is amplified by the pass-first Dane's near-aversion to playing in more offensive situations (outside of the powerplay). Nonetheless, Nielsen's value is recognized by teams throughout the league, which may be why his name appeared in a "sourced" rumor that the Blackhawks were trying to pry him out of the Isles' hands. Naturally, that report's source has the Hawks looking at him to fill their long-open need of ... a #2 center. (It also calls him "decent" at faceoffs, which is ... well, it's simply not true.)

Who's Needed?

So the Islanders are finally starting to accumulate bottom-six forwards they can be proud of, but one always wonders if their top six could be better. Whether that's replacing Boyes with someone even better, or finding better second-line wingers than Okposo and Bailey, or finding more scorers for the third line that perform a more traditional "second line" role while the Nielsen line takes on the chief checking assignments, you can always argue for an upgrade.

But is one in the cards for this trade deadline? Almost certainly not. The Islanders aren't in a position to spend what it would take to add a higher-end forward for the long-term via trade, and regardless of their current playoff push they have no business spending on a high-end rental.

If anything happens at forward, look for it to be a cheap sell-off of an expiring asset in return for a draft pick.

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