At the very least, the Islanders will make some draft picks on Saturday.
The NHL conducted the first round of its entry draft on Friday night and some blockbuster deals were made around the league. The Islanders, without a first-round pick, have six picks for Saturday’s rounds 2-7, starting with the 52nd overall.
The Islanders have approximately $17.6 million in space under the flat $81.5 million salary-cap ceiling after shedding $5.5 million salary-cap charges apiece for defenseman Nick Leddy, Andrew Ladd and Jordan Eberle, the first two through trades and the latter in the expansion draft. But president and general manager Lou Lamoriello did not make a pre-draft trade on what turned into a hectic Friday.
The Canucks and Coyotes made the most attention-grabbing deal. The Canucks took on the final six seasons of defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s eight-year, $66 million deal — the Coyotes retained 12% — along with coveted restricted free agent Conor Garland (who might have been an Islanders target). In exchange, the Canucks sent Friday’s ninth overall pick, a second-round pick in 2022, a seventh-round pick in 2023 and Jay Beagle, Loui Eriksson and Antoine Roussel to the Coyotes.
The Sabres, who had the first overall pick on Friday, and Flyers also made a significant trade. Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was sent to the Flyers for defenseman Robert Hagg, the 14th overall pick and a second-round pick in 2023.
The Blue Jackets sent defenseman Seth Jones to Chicago along with the 32nd overall pick and a sixth-round pick in 2022 for defenseman Adam Boqvist, the 12th overall pick (center Cole Sillinger, the son of former Islander Mike Sillinger), a second-round pick on Saturday and a first-round pick in 2022. Jones promptly agreed to an eight-year extension with an annual cap charge of $9.5 million.
Of course, the Sabres are expected to eventually trade disgruntled captain Jack Eichel, who has five seasons remaining on his eight-year, $80 million deal.
The Islanders are not expected to be interested in Eichel. However, Lamoriello could pursue impending marquee unrestricted free agent Gabriel Landeskog if the Avalanche’s star wing is available when the free-agent market opens on Wednesday.
The Islanders could be interested in sharpshooter Vladimir Tarasenko if the Blues trade him.
Lamoriello reportedly is interested in defenseman Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, whom he drafted 17th overall in 2003 as the Devils’ boss. The Wild bought both out of the final four seasons of their 13-year, $98 million deals.
The Islanders enter Saturday with one pick apiece in each of the final six rounds (Nos. 52, 93, 125, 157, 189 and 221). Lamoriello sent his first-round pick — No. 29 overall — to the Devils on April 7 for impending UFAs Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. Lamoriello also traded his 2020 first-round pick to the Senators as part of the package to acquire Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
Lamoriello, as has been the case throughout an NHL career that started in 1987, has been in win-now mode since joining the Islanders in 2018.
As a result, the club is somewhat thin on potential NHL prospects and has specific needs for forwards and defensemen. There won’t be immediate help, given that they lack a first-round pick, but six picks will help bolster the organizational depth.