The top two defenseman available this offseason both came off the market on Monday. The Sharks re-signed two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and the Rangers acquired impending restricted free agent Jacob Trouba from the Jets.
How, or if, those moves impact the Islanders remain to be seen.
It’s believed Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello had interest in Trouba and it would have been no surprise if he investigated the possibility of landing Karlsson had the two-time Norris Trophy winner made it to unrestricted free agency on July 1.
At the same time, defense depth has become one of the Islanders’ strengths and Lamoriello may even look to deal a defenseman for a top-six forward this offseason.
Karlsson agreed to an eight-year extension worth a reported $92 million. Only the Oilers’ Connor McDavid ($12.5 million) and the Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews ($11.6 million) have contracts with higher average annual values.
The Rangers acquired Trouba for defenseman Neal Pionk and the 20th overall pick in this weekend’s NHL Draft in Vancouver.
Karlsson’s re-signing leaves a trio of Blue Jackets – left wing Artemi Panarin, center Matt Duchene and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky – as the marquee potential unrestricted free agents. The window for impending unrestricted free agents to begin talks with other teams starts on Sunday.
The Islanders are projected to have approximately $22 million in salary cap space.
The Islanders have already re-signed center Brock Nelson to a six-year, $36 million deal and right wing Jordan Eberle to a five-year, $27.5 million contract. But captain Anders Lee, Vezina finalist goalie Robin Lehner and center Valtteri Filppula are all impending UFAs.
Lamoriello is not expected to shy away from any chance to improve his roster, even with the Islanders’ depth on defense. Devon Toews’ emergence as a rookie last season could allow Lamoriello to dangle Nick Leddy – the two share many of the same skating and playmaking talents – and Noah Dobson, the 12th overall pick last year, leads the list of prospects.
The Flames’ Tyler Myers and the Maple Leafs’ Jake Gardiner may be the top defensemen now available as UFAs with Karlsson re-signed, though the Lightning’s Anton Stralman could also be a useful addition.
The Kings just bought out defenseman Dion Phaneuf from the seven-year, $49 million deal he signed as Maple Leafs captain in 2014. But Lamoriello, as the Toronto GM, traded Phaneuf and his hefty contract to the Senators and the 34-year-old’s production has dipped precipitously over the last three seasons.
The Flames are possibly looking to move T.J. Brodie, who has one season remaining on a five-year, $23.25 million deal, and/or Travis Hamonic, entering the final season of a seven-year, $27 million deal he signed with the Islanders in 2013.