VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Two teams chasing the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division improved their rosters via trades Friday, perhaps turning up the pressure on president and general manager Lou Lamoriello to keep pace, particularly with the Blue Jackets bringing in gifted playmaker Matt Duchene.
The NHL trade deadline is 3 p.m. Monday, and the Islanders, who did not practice Friday, will play their last game before then when they conclude a three-game Western Canada trip against the Canucks on Saturday night at Rogers Arena.
The Islanders (35-18-7) badly need a win. They were outskated in a 4-2 loss in Calgary on Wednesday and played too much of the game in their defensive zone in Thursday night’s 4-3 overtime loss in Edmonton.
“We haven’t lost too many times three or four games in a row,” coach Barry Trotz said. “We’ve just got to stop the bleeding.”
Regardless, the Islanders’ path to their first playoff berth since 2016 just became more difficult.
The second-place Capitals, who already had traded for speedy left wing Carl Hagelin, bolstered their defensive corps by acquiring Nick Jensen from the Red Wings and promptly signing the defenseman to a four-year, $10 million extension.
But the Blue Jackets, battling for a wild-card spot, made the most significant move by acquiring Duchene, a top-line center, and defenseman Julius Bergman from the Senators for a package that includes two forward prospects, a first-round pick and a conditional first-round pick. Duchene, an impending unrestricted free agent, was considered one of the best rentals available.
His acquisition likely signals that the Blue Jackets, in go-for-it mode, will not trade impending UFA Artemi Panarin. Even if they did, it would be unlikely that they would trade him to a division rival, considering their playoff aspirations.
If so, that would leave the Senators’ Mark Stone as the most attractive forward available to the Islanders as a trade rental.
It’s believed that Lamoriello, whose priority should be acquiring a scoring forward who can bolster the power play, inquired about Duchene and Panarin and likely has inquired about Stone.
The Kings’ Ilya Kovalchuk and the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds are other options possibly available via trade. The Isles do have left wing Andrew Ladd and defenseman Thomas Hickey ready to come off long-term injured reserve.
Notes & quotes: The NHL suspended Oilers captain Connor McDavid for two games for his illegal check to the head of Nick Leddy at 17:38 of the first period Thursday night. Leddy cleared concussion protocol and returned to the game. The league noted that McDavid made Leddy’s head the “main point of contact” and added that the hit was “avoidable.” It’s the first NHL suspension for McDavid, who forfeited $134,408.60 in salary.