It is a common complaint of your average Islander fan that the thing the team needs to take the next step is a “stud” winger to ride shotgun with Captain John Tavares. Even though JT’s numbers have done well without the prophesized “stud” isles fans have been dreaming of since he has entered the league, it is clear why we long for one more piece to add to the offensive puzzle. If the Captain has had as much success as he has with the least flattering rosters imaginable, think of what he could do if he was no longer the only concern of the opposing defense when his line jumps the boards. And I know, he has had Kyle Okposo with him, and KO deserves credit for his ability, but some of his success is because of JT. Regardless, his numbers have unknown potential if he has someone on the ice with him that gives him more time and space to work with, but also somebody for him to rely on to be able to pass to and receive passes from. So, to give some of you Isles fans out there who aren’t deep enough into NHL knowledge to dig through rosters to find a good fit for Johnny T, I have taken it upon myself to make an Islanders fan wish list of eligible wingers ready to steal the roster spot of a lifetime.
- JASON ZUCKER, 23, MINNESOTA WILD
Why it could work:
Jason Zucker is a highly talented forward that has great speed, decent hands, and an elite shot. If you look at his highlights, some of them are just him shooting the puck from a ridiculous spot on the ice and finding the back of the net. One of his best assets isn’t a tangible quality outside of the production it brings him, is his positioning. If you watch the video, he always seems to put himself in the right place at the right time. This is an extremely attractive attribute, because it means that there would be a player on the ice to finish off the many scoring opportunities that JT can’t finish alone. Outside of this, it gives JT two more bonuses: 1.he no longer has to finish off ridiculous plays alone, because he will usually have someone in position to score. 2.Now if he is being covered by multiple guys, or has been moved out of a position to set up a scoring chance, he can just pass it to Zucker with the confidence that he can probably score from wherever he is on the ice. Besides his talt, he might be a possibility in terms of availability. He was reportedly available at the 13-14 deadline and was a potential piece in a Vanek-to-the-Wild-from-Isles deal. Either way, his loss this past season put pressure on Chuck Fletcher to acquire some depth, so they wouldn’t be so dependent. It is possible he would be available if the Isles offered mpre depth for him, like a Josh Bailey and Grabner. The reason he would not need the extra let round pick and could possibly be cheaper is because of his limited sample size. Despite my praise of him, he does only have 98 GP. However, he is capable of 50 points next season, and that is if he stays with the Wild and not with Johnny.
As I stated earlier, he only has 98 GP. This means that he could struggle with the adjustment if he was put immediately on the top line. The other concern is how willing the Wild would be to humor offers on him. Despite their need for depth, they do need him for offence, and if they don’t find Grabner and/or Bailey as sufficient replacements in that department they may hold back. I said they considered trading hi two years ago, but that was before they saw nearly a whole season of his play. Lastly, he only has 9 career assists. He does have 29 goals, but to play with John Tavares, you have to be able to set him up to snipe it as well as be ready to take a pass. If he can’t find/doesn’t have the ability to make a play instead of finish one, it may not be the best fit.
Why he’s on this list: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drDCeV7yV1Q
4.JADEN SCHWARTZ, 23, ST LOUIS BLUES
Why it could work:
Jaden Schwartz is yet another great product from St Louis, who has a terrific shot, good handsand passing ability, and good speed. The thing that makes Jaden Schwartz so threatening is his elusiveness. And I don’t mean in the same way that guys like Tyler Ennis and Patrick Kane are, but in the way that he just works his way through defenders, that they can’t shut him down. And its not just by getting past guys, he finds ways to score/make chances. For example, if you watch the video in the link, his first highlight is a goal he scored by shooting through a defender’s legs. This ability draws defenders simply by the way it forces multiple opposing players to have to cover for each other’s mistakes, therefore leaving JT open or with more room. Also, unlike Zucker, he has more assists than goals, (62g, 73a) so he will be more than able to help JT score and not just receive the help. Now, on the practical side of his availability, St Louis is in the midst of change to their core in an effort to further their playoff runs. If they don’t find Schwartz absolutely necessary to their team, which, considering the amount of talent they possess, he probably isn’t, they would probably be willing to ship him out for a fair return. And taking into account Garth Snow’s magical ability to underpay for good players (no roster players were lost to acquire Boychuk and Leddy), we could get him for even less than expected.
Contrary to my statement about possibly getting a discount on him, the fact that he is only 23 with 207 GP, 62 G, and 73 A, he may actually cost more than what may be expected. It may also mean that they do not see him as a piece they could adjust to improve their postseason success, which could make it hard to pry away what they see as a piece of their future.
Why he’s on this list: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMBNGESObLo
3.TYLER TOFFOLI, 23, LOS ANGELES KINGS
Why it could work:
Tyler Toffoli is a gifted young forward with good speed, good hands, and eyes for the back of the net. I’d say from what I’ve seen his two best attributes are his accurate shot and ability to find open ice to score from. He also shows a good ability at passing the puck not only to set up goals but also to create more open space for himself and his linemates. This could be key to boosting JT as it would be great for him to have an open man that he can rely on to score as it is often that Tavares draws the attention of multiple defenders at once, which makes having Toffoli on the ice with him all the more dangerous. Outside of his offense, he comes from a goal-stingy LA Kings system and will definitely bring some defensive responsibility to the top line as well. In addition to his compliments to Tavares, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for LA to consider trading him. He was reportedly available two years ago when Thomas Vanek was on the trade block and LA was gearing up for a cup run, so it wouldn’t be improbable that they would humor an offer for him again as the look to shake things up after missing the playoffs. On top of this, we are all aware of LA’s cap situation, and with the recent addition of Milan Lucic and his 6 mil cap hit, Garth Snow could pull another one of his “Rob a Contender” moves like he did to get Leddy and Boychuk. The Kings are tight for money and it will only get worse if Toffoli keeps progressing and asking for more raises.
His concerns aren’t the usual kind, like injuries, but instead are positional. First off, he’s a natural center, so he would have to adjust to wing, and secondly, he’s a right-hander, so Left Wing might be a challenge for him. However, the top line RW spot did go up for grabs towards the end of last season, so that is a possibility as well.
Why he’s on this list: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5f2iZnY0q8
- JEFF SKINNER, 23, CAROLINA HURRICANES
Why it could work:
Jeff Skinner is a highly gifted offensive forward with incredible hands, an even better shot and a surprisingly good ability to pass the puck. Not only this, but he has some threatening speed and could more than easily keep pace with JT. simply put, he is always one of the most exciting players on the ice every night. If you need proof, he was the first 18-year-old All Star since Steve Yzerman. Now, outside of requirements for ability, Carolina’s current situation could also play into Garth Snow’s hands here. The Canes have multiple uncomfortable contracts on their hands (the Staals, Skinner, Cam Ward) , and as a rebuilding team the cap should be your friend, so they could be looking to move some cash. Since they already have had to buy out Alexander Semin, expect them to want their next big $$$ move to not weigh down their cap scenario for the next few years. Especially if they want to keep the Staals as their leadership core, some dough will have to be dumped, and considering their building prospect pool, Skinner may become available.
He has had some recent trouble with concussions, but it doesn’t go too far back and also hasn’t seemed to tone down his star power too much, but it is a potential worry going forward. My biggest concern, which really applies to all the players on this list, is the shake up in the locker room. The isles have a tight knit group and probably losing a guy to get any of these people could be a speed bump in terms of having to redevelop chemistry and the social adjustment in the locker room. Luckily, the isles seem to be a very welcoming group so the bigger issue would probably be the readjustment period, because no one would want a slow start.
Why he’s on this list: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RH7MWtpOJ_k
1.JORDAN EBERLE, 25, EDMONTON OILERS
Why it could work:
Jordan Eberle is an extremely talented forward that has great skill in scoring goals and making plays. He is equipped with good speed, incredible hands, some amazing skating ability, along with an affinity for goal scoring. There has been speculation of the Isles having interest in Eberle for a while now, and it makes a lot of sense why they would. His style of play is so electrifying and jaw dropping, it would draw defenders’ attention away from John Tavares, he’s that good. On top of this, he has a history of good chemistry with Tavares. They were on team Canada’s top line together at the 2009 WJC, and won gold together. Now, there are reasons to believe we could get him other than the fact that I want him on the team so bad it hurts. Edmonton is in the midst of big changes, and new GM Peter Chiarelli is known to not be afraid to make a big move. I wouldn’t be surprised if he used Eberle to gain depth in a guy like Michael Grabner while also freeing up a spot so Connor McDavid could get more icetime. Additionally, Eberle (who wore the “A” on his chest) was a part of the Oilers’ leadership group, which Chiarelli might understandably want to shake up. Considering the rumors of a shift in captaincy, which I find unlikely considering Andrew Ference’s history with Chiarelli back in Boston, Eberle may be the guy to go. And he would most likely get less criticism for trading Eberle than the other alternate captain and former first overall pick Taylor Hall.
Eberle is a right-hander, so LW would be an adjustment for him, like with Toffoli. The bigger concern in the way of this trade is what he would cost to acquire. Grabner is already on the trade block and is all but gone as it is, but what/who he will be packaged with is the bigger question. As I see it, there are three options. You either throw in one of Josh Bailey or Frans Nielsen, one of our many high-level defense prospects, and probably a pick. There is a downside to all three of these options. Choice A, Josh Bailey, isn’t good, because Josh Bailey is the type of player that with one tweak (that is yet to be found) he could probably get 50+, maybe even 60+ points. A change of scenery could do that, but then we look like fools who traded away a 60+ scorer, one of the fastest guys in the league, and probably a later round pick for Jordan Eberle, who was a 63-point player this past year. Choice B, Frans Nielsen, is a difficult deal to make because of how major Frans’ value is to the team. He is a leader on the ice, showcased through his role on the power play, penalty kill, shootout, and as a second line center. Outside of special teams he excels, too, as a good offensive forward and as a shutdown forward. The only reason I say he is a choice is that his value most likely wont be higher than it is now. This will come down to whether or not Garth will choose the sentiment of the situation or the business side. Lastly, Choice C, a young D prospect, is maybe the least concerning option of the three. The isles have so many young promising blueliners that even if half turned out to be busts they’d still have 7 solid defensemen. The only reason to hesitate is that trading some of them now may seem foolish later, since so many seem to have bright futures that their value may be higher in say, a year, maybe two. Nobody wants another Chara to happen.
Why he’s on this list: https: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwvRkjtO-6I
A taste of his magic with JT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piXP-wZmzc4