Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello watches practice at the Northwell Health...

Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello watches practice at the Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park on Sept. 23, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

BOSTON — Consider Lou Lamoriello’s looming organizational dilemma as the NHL trade deadline approaches on March 3: Buy more, start to sell or keep the status quo.

It’s no snap decision for the Islanders president/general manager.

Sometimes, the Islanders send signals they are still a playoff contender, such as Friday night’s come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Penguins at UBS Arena that, at least temporarily, placed them in a wild-card spot.

Sometimes, they look slow and aging, as during their preceding three-game losing streak to the Canucks, Canadiens and Senators, all outside the playoff picture.

Options one and three won’t guarantee a playoff spot for the inconsistent Islanders. And option two may be no option at all for Lamoriello despite the organization’s depleted pool of first-round picks and top-level prospects. The veteran executive — he’s been at this since 1987 — has never believed in rebuilding, instead viewing every season as a precious possibility to win.

The Islanders, who now rely heavily on their top six forwards because of injuries and trades despite coach Lane Lambert and predecessor Barry Trotz’s strong belief the best teams wear down opponents by rolling four lines, still need another scoring wing. Quite possibly more defense depth, too.

But if the Islanders — whose schedule featured seven straight opponents currently holding a playoff spot through March 3 — get to the trade deadline still playing inconsistent hockey, Lamoriello must consider restocking the organization’s draft capital and prospect depth.

Goalie Semyon Varlamov, with a salary-cap hit of $5 million, and defenseman Scott Mayfield ($1.45 million) are both impending unrestricted free agents that would attract trade interest. So would Zach Parise ($750,000).

Really, Lamoriello should listen to interest for any player not named Bo Horvat, Mathew Barzal, goalie Ilya Sorokin or defenseman Noah Dobson.

Again, it’s highly debatable whether Lamoriello believes that’s a viable option.

t’s left to Lambert — recently given a vote of confidence by Lamoriello — to coax more out of the Islanders in order to avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight season (and last season’s miss cost Trotz his job). Getting Horvat certainly helped, both five-on-five and on the power play.

But Lamoriello’s roster composition has weakened one of a coach’s most powerful tools: The threat of losing ice time.

Top forward prospect Aatu Raty and top-six forward Anthony Beauvillier were sent to the Canucks as part of the package for Horvat. Former first-rounder Oliver Wahlstrom is out long-term, almost certainly for the rest of the season, with a suspected knee injury. Often-injured Cal Clutterbuck is injured again. The organization’s other promising forward prospects, including William Dufour and Ruslan Iskhakov are not yet NHL ready.

On the back end, turnovers or miscues won’t cost defensemen Sebastian Aho, Alexander Romanov or Mayfield playing time because Parker Wotherspoon, Dennis Cholowski and Robin Salo haven’t shown they are upgrades and prospect Samuel Bolduc isn’t quite ready.

Lambert has, on several occasions, called Islanders’ performances “unacceptable.” But there’s been no visible follow-up to that. Accountability is key but the players see the same things we do: A bad performance is not likely to land them on the bench.

That’s a bit on Lambert. But it’s a lot on who he can choose among.

Pulled from the pod

Episode 155 of Newsday’s Island Ice podcast featured an interview with Noah Dobson, specifically about the 23-year-old defenseman’s improving ability to show a shot from near the blue line but, instead, feed the puck to a teammate’s stick for a redirection.

Dobson created a tip-in goal for Brock Nelson just that way in last weekend’s 4-3 overtime loss in Montreal.

“Maybe earlier on, my first year, you don’t really want the puck up there, you’re kind of shooting it right away,” Dobson said. “Now I’m having the confidence to see a play, take your time. The main thing is when you have an extra second or the ice, you’ve got to take it. It’s hard to score from way out on the blue line. You’ve got to try and create something that’s a little more dangerous. It’s just all part of growing and confidence and feeling comfortable up there.”

Battlin’ Billy Smith

The Islanders marked Billy Smith Night at UBS Arena on Friday as part of their season-long 50th anniversary celebration, with the four-time Stanley Cup champion Hall of Fame goalie in attendance.

Coach Lane Lambert, whose playing career for the Red Wings, Rangers and Nordiques overlapped Smith’s in the 1980s, said he believes he scored a goal against the combative Smith, though he wasn’t 100% certain. Lambert was sure Smith slashed him at least once.

“There were a few guys, Ron Hextall was pretty aggressive,” Lambert said. “It was a little bit of a different era in that aspect. I don’t think we ever thought, ‘Oh, boy, you better not go to the net.’ But, every once in a while, you’d pay the price for it.”

Extra hats

The winning goal in Friday night’s 5-4 comeback win over the Penguins at UBS Arena was initially credited to Brock Nelson, which would have meant his fifth career hat trick. Hats were flung to the ice but the goal was quickly and rightfully corrected to Zach Parise.

“I don’t know what happens to those,” Nelson said. “I don’t know if I get any of those. I’ll give a couple to Zach, maybe.”

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