If the Islanders have a move up their sleeves, as general manager Lou Lamoriello has indicated he’d like to make, their options are somewhat limited.
In explaining the decision to fire Barry Trotz back in May, Lamoriello brought up making a “hockey deal” to improve the roster, not for the first time — specifically saying the Islanders would be open to moving one of their forward group, which largely underproduced last season. The problem there being that between core pieces (Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas), players with some form of a no-trade clause (Kyle Palmieri, Jean-Gabriel Pageau) and those whose contracts might be tough to move (Josh Bailey), Lamoriello only has so many options.
That brings us to Anthony Beauvillier, tethered by none of those constraints and with value largely contingent on what 31 other general managers believe he can be.
Beauvillier, who turned 25 in early June, was set to break out last season, having built himself into a top-six role and authored the winning goal in Nassau Coliseum’s final game. Instead, he was — like so many other Islanders — left to explain a season that departed course at a breakup day held two months before the Stanley Cup was handed out.
“I feel like I kind of let my teammates down a little bit,” Beauvillier said that day. “I’m capable of doing much better things on the ice. I know that and everyone knows that.”
Beauvillier, in 75 games, scored three fewer goals than he did in 47 games in 2020-21. His expected goals percentage took a nosedive, from 55.96 percent to 46.14 percent, per Natural Stat Trick. Too often, he failed to impact games at even strength, going long stretches without doing anything to draw notice.
The question for Lamoriello — and for anyone on the other end of the phone with him — is whether that season is viewed as a mere casualty of a team where nearly every player had a rough season or something indicative of the player Beauvillier will be over the long term.
“I feel like I know I can be much better than what I showed this year,” Beauvillier said. “That’s where the frustration was. I know my potential and I wasn’t playing to it.”
With two seasons left on his deal at $4.15 million per, there is ample time for the Quebec native to prove himself, and that number is attractive if you believe 2021-22 was a blip on an otherwise upward trajectory.
By himself, it’s unlikely Beauvillier can get the Islanders the puck-moving, left-handed defenseman that the roster is calling out for, but he could be the centerpiece of a deal. (And would anyone be surprised if the team ended up moving the 13th overall pick in Thursday’s NHL draft?)
If the Islanders do indeed end up trading a forward, it figures that’s where they would look to add. They need scoring up front, too, but those options are available in free agency, and if it comes down to one or the other, it’s the blue line where the Isles are in more desperate need of help.
The rub, of course, is how Lamoriello himself (and new head coach Lane Lambert) sees Beauvillier. The Islanders are in a precarious spot this offseason. The last thing they can afford is to watch Beauvillier take off in a different uniform.
“I just got in my own head,” he said. “Got frustrated a little bit with that. It’s in the past now. Over the summer, I’m gonna get bigger, faster, stronger and be ready for next year.”