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Expect Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello to go for a rental at trade deadline

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello observes practice during

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello observes practice during training camp at the Northwell Health Ice Center on Jan. 12. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Lou Lamoriello has made six trades as the Islanders president and general manager and figures to add to that total before the April 12 deadline.

Scoring depth up front is needed with Anders Lee out for the season with a torn right anterior cruciate ligament and Lamoriello has $7 million in wiggle room above the $81.5 million salary-cap ceiling with his captain on long-term injured reserve.

Lamoriello can afford the Sabres’ Taylor Hall, though it’s uncertain the Islanders are considering the former Hart Trophy winner. He can afford the Devils’ Kyle Palmieri, though Palmieri and the Devils may still work out an extension. Ditto for Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno, who may not be moved as coach John Tortorella keeps yet another season afloat in Columbus.

Whatever Lamoriello does, it will be near impossible to top last season’s trade deadline acquisition of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, not to mention his earlier deal for ex-Devils captain Andy Greene.

Both have been integral components this season and, in Pageau’s case after he was immediately signed to a six-year, $30 million extension, part of the Islanders’ long-term future. The versatile Pageau has clearly become one of coach Barry Trotz’s favorite players. More on that shortly.

So, don’t compare what Lamoriello eventually does this season to last season. It’s likely apples to oranges. This time, Lamoriello is almost certainly targeting rentals, not a core piece like Pageau.

Not that the pressure on Lamoriello to improve his club is any less.

Even without Lee, the Islanders can win the East Division. They should be considered Stanley Cup contenders, even if getting past the Capitals and/or Bruins and/or Penguins in the first two rounds of the playoffs and into the NHL’s final four for a second straight season will be extremely difficult.

But Lee’s linemates Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle have struggled in his absence and it behooves Lamoriello to get that top line more productive again. Leo Komarov is fine in certain spots. A long-term role on that line is not one of them.

Ex-Islander Derick Brassard, now with the Coyotes, and the Sharks’ Matt Nieto and Marcus Sorensen are all cheaper alternatives that could be moved. Any could be plugged onto Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s line, allowing speedy Anthony Beauvillier to be reunited with Barzal. Pageau’s versatile game allows him to be productive with almost anybody.

"One of the reasons we got Pager is we saw his intellect as a player," Trotz said. "We saw his competitiveness as a player. He loves the battle. If he’s got an assignment or if he’s going against a top guy, I think he has a switch that he turns on and makes it personal. He’s a really easy guy to move around the lineup and also a really easy guy to play with because he does so many things right.

"You trust him in every situation against top opponents. You don’t even blink an eye. You know that he’s going to get the job done. That’s the biggest compliment you can give any player: When the game is on the line, can I put you on the ice and can you get the job done? I have zero reservation because I have that trust in him."

Lamoriello set a high, trade-deadline bar, indeed.

Going on instinct

Anthony Beauvillier scored back-to-back overtime winners in Monday’s 2-1 victory in Philadelphia and Thursday’s 4-3 win in Boston. The latter was an easy one, just knocking in a loose puck that Bruins goalie Jaroslav Halak could not control and was trickling through the crease.

But his wraparound goal against the Flyers was a skillful one as Beauvillier accelerated behind the crease and beat goalie Brian Elliott to the left post.

Beauvillier claimed he got "lucky" but it took instant recognition to commit to the attempt.

"It’s one of those instincts plays," Beauvillier said. "It just happens and you kind of hope for the best. You go behind the net and you see the goalie is not really there and you go for it. I was fortunate, it hit his skate and went in the net. It’s one of those plays where you just do it when it happens and sometimes you get lucky with it."

Leddy rising

Nick Leddy had his fourth multi-point game of the season – and second in four games – with two assists on Thursday against the Bruins. That moved Leddy into fourth place on the Islanders’ all-time list of multi-point games by defensemen:

1. Denis Potvin (1973-88) – 281

2. Stefan Persson (1977-86) – 80

3. Tomas Jonsson (1981-89) – 63

4. Nick Leddy (2014-present) – 44

5. Jeff Norton (1988-93) – 43

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