When news broke of Alex DeBrinkat’s deal between Ottawa and Detroit on Sunday night, the talented winger and goaltender became the latest in a string of superstars who were just that, on the verge of becoming Islanders before finally spurning the club and leaving. . Elsewhere.
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek reported on July 4 that DeBrincat’s pursuit continued at the Red Wings and Islanders, before he eventually chose to play closer to where he grew up in Michigan.
But what makes this different from Artemi Panarin in 2019, or Nazem Kadri and Johnny Gaudreau last summer, is that while those players all seemed logical at the time, following DeBrincat was at best confusing, and at worst not recommended.
That’s not to say DeBrincat, who has scored 100 goals over the past three seasons, probably couldn’t help it. The Islanders could still use more points up front, and they could definitely use more power play options.
But there is plenty of reason for the Islanders to be patient, even if it means entering the 2023-24 season with the same squad they are in now.
Leaving Lou Lamoriello open the possibility of more “hockey deals” in his press on July 1 was a tantalizing notion to fans who thought this roster needed more than it currently has. And yes, maybe if they competed.
But the islanders couldn’t get DeBrincat on board without moving the money. He will almost certainly start with Jean Gabriel Pago and his $5 million salary for the next three seasons.
And while DeBrincat is a catchy name, make no mistake, Pageau is still an important part of the Islanders’ current squad. Rival teams are always looking for depth in the middle, and the Islanders are capitalizing on that with the 30-year-old as the third-line center behind Bo Horvat and Brock Nelson. “We’re lucky to have five guys from center ice,” Lamoriello said on June 6, referring to Horvat, Nelson, Bago, Matthew Barzal, and Casey Cizikas.
While Bago’s scoring tally has dipped slightly in recent seasons, he still amassed a respectable 40 points in 70 games last season. In addition, he led all Islanders in shortstop in time on the ice per game (1:56) for ninth in the league, while his tackle percentage with 57.3 was twelfth in the NHL. These minutes and these responsibilities are not easily replaceable, especially for a team that aims to win matches with few goals.
Indeed, keeping Bago, while signing Horvat, who was 14th in the league last season with an outright winning percentage of 56.9%, should help in this vital area of the game. NHL last season (10th, 51.7%); With Pageau and Horvat for a full season, it’s best to move on.
And speaking of matches, Barzal was a guy who the Islanders basically abandoned in the ring for the second half of last season. He was in the ring regularly the first few months at less than 40%, and from Christmas to the time of his regular season-ending injury on February 18, he had only 72 tackles in his last 23 games.
Bago’s deal likely means Barzal has to regain his position, which seems more deceptive than his efforts to win a par.
There was instant chemistry between Barzal and Horvat after a deal for the latter on January 31. Unfortunately, all six games went on before Barzal’s unfortunate collision with Boston’s Craig Smith at TD Garden two weeks into the second half.
They couldn’t recreate that when Barzal returned to the playoffs, but drawing general conclusions from that six-game series with the Hurricanes would be ridiculous. Barzal n’a clairement pas fonctionné à toute vitesse, and Horvat semble également avoir heurté un mur au courses des dernières semaines and lors des qualifications for diverses raisons, notamment en s’adaptant consistency for déplacer sa family of the ‘autre côté de l’ north america.
At the very least, the Islanders should keep Barzal on the right wing for Horvat in training camp and for the first few weeks of the season to see if they build on the potential they have shown over the course of this season. February. (Not to mention, you really want the $9.15 million franchise player in the third row?)
There is also a chance the Islanders will score more goals per panel next season than last season, when they finished 22nd with 2.95 goals per game. Horvat and Pierre Engvall will both be here from day one, and Engvall’s five goals in 18 appearances tied the Islanders’ 23 goals in a full season.
Oliver Wahlstrom’s future looks even more murky. Changing agents when he was not under contract raised questions about his possible transfer. There is also the question of whether he still has the potential to be an everyday player in the top nine. But still, Wallstrom, at just 23 years old, has the potential to take the next step.
Additionally, perhaps the Islanders’ biggest concern, especially after signing Scott Mayfield, is whether their defensive teams will be mobile and competent enough in the transition. If they decide that’s not the case a few weeks or months into next season, their money and assets are better spent helping out on the field.
The 2024 NHL trade deadline is still eight months away. There will be other opportunities for the Islanders to change their forward kit if necessary, and it is often easier to get scoring wingers than centers or defenders. DeBrincat’s acquisition this week may have led to another surprise move or two with a player not named Pageau, which would make all of this moot anyway.
But if sacrificing Debrinkat’s overall status was indeed the move that was coming, it would be best to wait for something else.
(Photo by Jean-Gabriel Pajo: Joe Camporeal/USA Today)