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Who should the Islanders look to target on deadline day?

With a wild card spot in reach, the Isles have to decide whether they’re buying or selling. If they’re buyers, there’s a lot of interesting options on the table, with Matt Duchene as the crown jewel.

Colorado Avalanche v New York Islanders
Will this guy be wearing blue and orange pretty soon?
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New York Islanders have done a lot in just a month’s time. Going from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to one point out of a wild card spot is no small feat, but their work is hardly over. A new addition to the team at the trade deadline might be the spark needed for the Isles, but with the team not even guaranteed to be in a playoff spot come April, general manager Garth Snow has to be careful not to trade away the future for a difficult playoff push.

Taking a look at some of the big names on the market, the Islanders have a few options should they decide to be buyers at this trade deadline.

Matt Duchene

Edmonton Oilers v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Avalanche center is obviously the most prized forward this trade deadline, but he’ll come with the highest price. He has a career high of 70 points, but is on pace for 54 points this season on a mediocre team. A change of scenery may help that, especially as he won’t be expected to be the main point producer, likely centering the second line behind John Tavares. Duchene also has term left, with another two seasons following this one, so while he’s due a new contract soon he isn’t a typical rental.

Despite Duchene’s down year with the Avalanche, Colorado GM Joe Sakic will ask a lot for his star player, with the asking price allegedly featuring a “plickspect” package — a player, pick, and a prospect. The Avs are looking for an NHL ready defenseman, and the Isles are arguably in the best position in the league to trade a defenseman, with two good prospects in the AHL and a couple of fringe NHLers rotating in with the big club.

Matt Duchene is a player the Islanders need now and in the future, and trading for him can make a strong statement to John Tavares as he considers his future with the Islanders. The asking price might just be too high for the Isles to make the deal.

Gabriel Landeskog

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Landeskog is another name floated around as trade bait for the Avalanche. His asking price is probably a little lower than Duchene’s, but he’s also struggled a lot lately. The Avs captain is 24 years old with a career high of 65 points, and he’s a former Calder Trophy winner. He’d be a good second line winger with the Islanders, but left wing is where the Islanders have the most depth, so Landeskog fills less of a need than Duchene does.

Landeskog, however, is signed until 2021 with a cap hit of approximately $5.5 million. It may be an overpay given his current production, but there’s always the hope that he would turn around his play on a better team. He’d be an interesting pick up for the Islanders, but he’s probably not the player that Garth Snow would make a big splash for.

Jordan Eberle

Edmonton Oilers v Calgary Flames Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Jordan Eberle’s an interesting case. He’s been one of the Oilers’ best players on some miserable Edmonton teams, but has always been viewed as an underperformer. With Connor McDavid singlehandedly bringing the Oilers back to relevancy, they may be looking to trade a player who always seems to be looked at unfavorably despite a history of strong play. That play hasn’t been the case this season, as again, Eberle is another player on a down year. As a right wing, he has more value to the Islanders who lack natural right-handed shots, but odds are Eberle won’t be moved during the trade deadline.

However, if the Islanders could make it work, they have players the Oilers may find interesting. Travis Hamonic’s name has been floated around for Eberle, as well as Jaroslav Halak’s, as the Isles seem content to leave him in the AHL. Eberle’s signed until 2019, so he’d be another long term target. If that deal goes down, it seems like it would most likely be in the summer, but stranger things have happened at the trade deadline.

Patrick Sharp

Dallas Stars v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Now we get to the rentals. While it doesn’t seem likely that the Islanders would want to acquire a player that won’t be here next season, Arthur Staple has speculated that if the Isles are looking at rentals, there’s only a few players they’d be interested in.

Patrick Sharp is one of these players. His injuries have limited him to only 36 games this year, where the 35-year-old has put up 15 points. Those numbers aren’t dazzling, and at 35 it’s possible Sharp’s game has fallen off, but as a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks, he’s certainly a “proven winner.” That has some weight during the trade deadline, and Sharp is only a season removed from 20 goals and 55 points in 76 games.

Sharp is a typical grizzled playoff veteran pickup, and the Islanders definitely value veteran presence. However, at 35 years old, Sharp may want to go to a guaranteed contender for one last run at the Cup, and with a modified no-trade clause, he may have more say in his destination than most players in his position. As a rental in a year the Islanders likely won’t win the Stanley Cup, it seems wasteful to use assets on Patrick Sharp. However, the Isles might be able to get him on the cheaper side this deadline, and with his playoff experience he could be an impact player in the right situation.

Radim Vrbata

Anaheim Ducks v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Radim Vrbata has turned his value around with a return to Arizona after a few years in Vancouver. He’s on a 61 point pace with the Coyotes, and could be an interesting pick up for the Islanders. Vrbata is 35 but has been playing well on a struggling team. He’d be a good middle six player, and would bolster the Isles’ forward depth. The question on Vrbata is what the price would be, as the Coyotes managed to get a king’s ransom for Martin Hanzal.

If he can be acquired for picks, the Islanders may want to add Vrbata to the roster as the playoff race gets tighter and injuries mount, because with Shane Prince, Casey Cizikas, and Cal Clutterbuck all out, the Isles have dealt with depth issues. Vrbata’s 46 points so far would also put him second on the Islanders, so he certainly adds value to the team.

As stated before, acquiring rental players probably doesn’t make sense for the Islanders at this point, but Vrbata at the right price would be a shrewd pick up if Garth Snow decides to load up pieces for a playoff push.

Anthony Duclair

Anaheim Ducks v Arizona Coyotes Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Anthony Duclair looked like a piece of the future for the Arizona Coyotes last season, putting up 20 goals and 44 points in 81 games. However, a 19% shooting percentage has crashed back down to earth for Duclair, who has 9 points in his last 41 NHL games and 8 points in 15 games with Arizona’s AHL affiliate. Duclair seems like a typical Isles deadline acquisition: a young maligned player who could turn it around in a different setting. At 21 years old, Duclair is basically still a developing prospect, though his stock has plummeted. If the Islanders are looking for a reclamation project, Duclair is definitely a player to try and get.

With the way the Islanders season has gone, it’s possible that they could take on this trade deadline in a number of different ways. They could be buyers, sellers, or stand pat; they might make a splash and trade for a player like Matt Duchene, or make a trade similar to the Tyler Kennedy one. Regardless of what the Islanders do, with some big names already on the move, hopefully this year’s trade deadline will have some action.