The New York Islanders were dealt a brutal blow over the weekend when star center Mathew Barzal suffered a lower-body injury. On Monday, the team announced that Barzal will be out indefinitely, further depleting the Isles' group of forwards.
Barzal suffered the injury just 6:01 into Saturday's game against the Boston Bruins after he was hit by Bruins center Craig Smith. The Islanders star attempted to skate off the injury during a stoppage in play, but ended up going to the locker room and never returned for the remainder of the Islanders' 6-2 loss.
Losing Barzal is a tough pill to swallow for an Islanders team that is currently hanging onto the final Wild Card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference entering Monday. The versatile center currently owns a team-high 37 assists while also being second on the team in points (51) behind only Brock Nelson (55).
According to The Athletic's Pierre LeBruin, Barzal's injury is being categorized as a week-to-week and he is expected to return at some point before the regular season ends. Still, with Barzal exiting the lineup for the foreseeable future, the Islanders are forced to deal with a huge depth issue within their forward group.
Prior to Barzal going down, forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been out with a lower-body injury and was placed on injured reserve last week retroactive to Feb. 11. Additionally, winger Josh Bailey suffered an upper-body injury in Friday's contest against the Pittsburgh Penguins and is currently out of the lineup.
With Barzal expected to be out for a considerable portion of time, that elevates the status of recent acquisition Bo Horvat on the team's top line. Horvat came over in a trade from the Vancouver Canucks right before the All-Star break and has recorded four points (three goals and an assist) since joining the team.
Even with Horvat to lean on, the Islanders may have to make another move at the NHL trade deadline if they want to stay in the postseason race. Here's a look at a few names that the team could look to add prior to the March 3 deadline.
The Islanders already parted with a significant portion of capital to land Bo Horvat last month, so a top forward like Patrick Kane or Tyler Bertuzzi probably isn't coming to Long Island. However, Max Domi would be a solid consolation prize. Domi will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, which means that the price tag won't be insanely high. Despite being on his fifth NHL team, Domi has thrived as the Blackhawks top-line center this season. Domi would slide in nicely as the Islanders' center on the second line, while current center Brock Nelson is versatile enough to slide over to left wing if necessary. The 27-year old would also be a nice addition to an Islanders power-play that is converting just 17.4 percent of their opportunities, which is seventh-worst in the league.
Could the Islanders reach out to one of their Metropolitan Division rivals to add some forward depth? It's not impossible to think that they wouldn't. The Flyers are fading in the standings, so that would likely mean that they'll be looking to sell on a few of their veteran pieces at the deadline. At 33 years old, James van Riemsdyk certainly isn't the dynamic 30-goal scorer that he was earlier in his career. Still, van Riemsdyk would still provide some playmaking ability, which would really come in handy right about now. van Riemsdyk's $7 million cap hit isn't ideal, but it's likely that the Flyers will have to eat some of that money. Perhaps a few draft picks would get a deal done.
Jesse Puljujarvi was once one of the Oilers most promising young prospects, but it's possible that his time with the organization may be coming to the end after an underwhelming tenure. Puljujarvi was the fourth overall pick back in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, but has recorded just 111 career points (51 goals and 60 assists) in his six seasons with the franchise. A change of scenery could be in the works for Puljujarvi and the Islanders could be just the type of team that would take a chance on a low-risk, high-reward type of move to acquire his services. Aside from their 2023 first round pick, New York has all their draft choices in tow over the next three years. Since they already parted with several assets to land Horvat, this could make a ton of sense for the Islanders.
The Islanders haven't gotten much production from their third line throughout the 2022-23 season. While his offensive skillset may not be quite what it once was, Lars Eller wouldn't be a bad option for a low price tag. The Capitals are currently on the outside looking in of the playoff race. If Washington continues to struggle, it wouldn't be surprising if they were willing to deal a player like Eller, who is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Eller may not be flashy, but he's winning a team-high 54.3 percent of his face-offs on the season. The Islanders currently rank in the middle of the pack (50.3 percent) in the face-off department, so Eller wouldn't be a bad depth piece to add on the cheap.
Nick Bonino is player in a similar mold to Lars Eller -- the Sharks center isn't an incredibly gifted offensive player, but he does a little bit of everything on the ice. Bonino wins face-offs (48.9 percent), skates on San Jose's penalty kill unit, and also sees time on the power-play. The 34-year old is the type of glue guy that playoff-caliber hockey teams need on their roster. Bonino is a gritty forward that takes up real estate in front of the net and can score those goals in tight situations. He also has a championship pedigree as he won the Stanley Cup twice with the Penguins in 2015 and 2016. Bonino is another player that wouldn't cost the Islanders much to acquire, but would provide quality depth.