Islanders trade for Maple Leafs winger Pierre Engvall for the playoff push
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Regardless of the roster’s composition following Friday’s NHL trade deadline, the Islanders feel equipped for their playoff push even with key forwards Mathew Barzal and Jean-Gabriel Pageau injured.
President/general manager Lou Lamoriello on Tuesday acquired forward Pierre Engvall, a 26-year-old Swede who is an impending unrestricted free agent, for a third-round pick in 2024. Engvall had 12 goals and nine assists in 58 games for the Maple Leafs and 42 goals and 41 assists in 226 career NHL games since Toronto selected him in the seventh round in 2014.
Lamoriello’s big move was acquiring top-line center Bo Horvat from the Canucks on Jan. 30 for forward Anthony Beauvillier, top forward prospect Aatu Raty and a top-12 protected first-round pick this year.
The Islanders concluded a two-game road trip against the Wild on Tuesday night at Xcel Energy Center having won three of their previous four, four of their last six and having gone 8-3-2 since Jan. 27. They were clinging tenuously to the Eastern Conference’s first-wild card spot despite having played more games than any team chasing them.
“Getting Bo helped a lot,” Zach Parise said. “And I think, this last little stretch, losing some important guys, as weird as it sounds, it’s really forced us to buckle down defensively and really be responsible.”
Forwards Oliver Wahlstrom and Cal Clutterbuck are also dealing with long-term injuries, though Josh Bailey was back in the lineup for his second game after missing four.
“It’s going to be a mental grind right to the finish,” Horvat said. “But, for us, you can’t really think of it that way, scoreboard watching or worrying about anybody else. It’s just a matter of us focusing on the next game.”
“We’re playing some good hockey,” said Casey Cizikas, now in Pageau’s spot centering a third line with Matt Martin and Hudson Fasching. “We’re playing confident hockey and everyone is buying into what we have to do.”
The Islanders schedule eases up after this road trip. They don’t play again until facing the Red Wings on Saturday afternoon at UBS Arena, which is expected to be Engvall’s debut with the Islanders. That’s just one of just seven games over the first 20 days of the new month but the first of four straight against teams the Islanders must hold off to maintain their playoff position.
“When all those guys went down, other guys had to step up and fill that role,” said Horvat, whose first-period shorthanded goal in Sunday’s 4-0 win over the Jets gave him a career high 62 points. “I’m one of those guys that wants to be a difference maker and fill that void that’s been missing. Hopefully, I’m doing an OK job at it.
“But everybody’s doing a great job. Other guys are stepping up and scoring goals at different times and being a big part of the game at different moments. We’ve got to continue to do that until those guys come back, too.”
The Islanders missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2018, costing former coach Barry Trotz his job in favor of Lane Lambert.
“To be missing it last year to now be playing some meaningful hockey at this time of the year, it’s so fun,” Parise said. “When you’re in it, it’s just such a fun time of the year.”
Even after acquiring Engvall, the Islanders could also use more defense depth. But Lamoriello has traded away four straight first-round picks.
Lamoriello’s moves to bring in Horvat and Engvall do indicate it’s unlikely he will consider trading away impending UFAs Parise, defenseman Scott Mayfield or goalie Semyon Varlamov.