The Islanders' surprising season sees them leading the Metropolitan Division with 24 games remaining, and with the trade deadline less than a week away they have been linked to one of the biggest names on the trade market.
In his weekly 31 Thoughts column for Sportsnet, Elliotte Friedman writes that the Islanders are one of two "stealth desination(s)" for Ottawa's Matt Duchene along with Calgary. Columbus and Nashville are the teams primarily in on Duchene, who has 27 goals and 31 assists in 50 games and is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The 28-year-old center would be a huge get for an Islanders team which lost John Tavares to Toronto in free agency and has scored the ninth-fewest goals (169) in the NHL entering Tuesday. The Isles have been leading the division despite that because of their incredible defensive improvement under Barry Trotz. They have allowed the fewest goals in the league (138) and have gotten stellar goaltending from Robin Lehner (2.08 GAA, .929 save percentage) and Thomas Greiss (2.20, .930.)
Friedman also lists the Islanders as one of four teams with the best chance at signing Columbus' Artemi Panarin long-term. The Blue Jackets could keep Panarin, an unrestricted free agent at season's end, and hope to make a Stanley Cup run, or they can trade him knowing he won't re-sign with them. Panarin entered Tuesday with 24 goals and 43 assists in 56 games.
The report also says if the Isles miss out on their targets, they could also turn their attention to Ilya Kovalchuk, whom Lou Lamoriello traded for and re-signed to a 15-year contract while with the Devils. Kovalchuk has 13 goals and 15 assists in a lost season for the Kings.