This article originally appeared on The Hockey Writers
After the Islanders traded Thomas Vanek last season, fans began to wonder what the Islanders would do to solve the first line left-wing spot. Would they allow people with the team to attempt to fill the void? Or would they acquire a proven player from another team to join that line? With the talk that the Islanders and Oilers are potentially involved in trade discussions, we decided to look at a couple potential fits for this spot.
Islander fans were sent into a bit of a frenzy on Friday after tweets that suggested the Islanders and Oilers were in trade discussions with Jordan Eberle being a piece being talked about. Although he is entering his 5th NHL season, Eberle is just 24 years of age, and is coming off a 65 point season last year. In 11/12 he had a career year as he put up 76 points including 34 goals. While he doesn't exactly have a team favorable contract, signed for 6 million per season for the next 5 seasons including the current one. It can't be denied that the potential of adding his skill to the core of this team is something that the Islanders should definitely consider. While I am certainly not look to deal Griffin Reinhart, the inclusion of him shouldn't be a non starter from an Islanders perspective. The team has accumulated a wealth of defensive prospects, and with the additions of Leddy and Boychuk have a crowded NHL group. If Reinhart could be a key piece to land Eberle I would absolutely look into pulling the trigger. Although I am not convinced this will end up happening as many other teams have interest in Eberle and are in a more desperate position than the Islanders are.
Lee claiming this spot is something I actually think has a realistic shot of happening as long as Lee can continue to grow his game and evolve into the player we all hope he can be. Lee has shown a good scoring touch early on in his professional career putting up 40 goals in 103 games to this point split between the NHL and AHL. He has shown the ability to score dirty goals like one of Tavares former linemates that he had a lot of success with. Even though they have put up their points this year, Tavares and Okposo haven't been as electric and noticeable as they have been in past years. Putting Lee on their line with the traits he has that resemble a former linemate of theirs could be just the thing they need to get their game going. On the same token, it could prove to be the perfect spot for Anders Lee to begin a hopefully long NHL career.
This has been a thought by some people as a sort of last-ditch thing to do for Bailey to see if he can salvage anything here. Peoples thinking here is that if he can't produce at a consistent pace with Tavares, he won't be able to do it with anyone. While I understand that sentiment, I am not totally sure that I buy it. It can't be denied that Bailey does have some play-making skills. However, more than that is needed to be the third man on this line. I just don't feel as though Bailey's game would compliment this line. Adding him to the line would lead to him holding them back rather than enhancing their game.
Over the summer, many thought Nelson would be the one to get first crack on the top line with Tavares and Okposo. While he did end up getting time there, it wasn't very long so he didn't really have an opportunity to gel with them. It has been said that coach Jack Capuano likes Nelson at center and doesn't want to shift him to wing. While I understand and don't necessarily disagree with him, I have been a big fan of Nelson for a long time and think he would really thrive alongside Tavares. Additionally, I don't think he is someone who would need to depend on Tavares, I think he is something who would be able to compliment the line which is what the searching is all about.
What I think Will Happen
As I said above, if Lee can continue to mature, I think he has a realistic shot of calling that spot home for a long time to come. However, having someone brought in from the outside wouldn't entirely shock me either. Although, making a player change to the Islanders right now with the way they are playing and disturbing that chemistry seems like a pretty big risk to me.