Islanders last week to prove they’re worthy of deadline help

The Islanders have two games left before Friday’s trade deadline, and embark on a trip up north to Winnipeg and Minnesota having gotten used to their season sitting on the knife’s edge.

Going into Sunday, the Islanders remained clear of all five teams below them in the Eastern Conference wild-card race, but the state of play remains to their disadvantage as far as games in hand, particularly with the Red Wings and Sabres having emerged as bona fide contenders.

Unlike the Capitals, who surveyed the landscape and decided to sell off some assets, with Garnet Hathaway and Dmitry Orlov going to Boston for draft picks earlier this week, it would be a surprise to see Lou Lamoriello ship out his pending free agents regardless of the math.

Lamoriello is in his fourth decade as an NHL general manager, and it is not his way to sell. It is always impossible to speak definitively on Lamoriello’s intentions because of the stranglehold he has on information coming out of the Islanders. But with the Isles tenuously holding onto a playoff spot right now, the traditional buy-or-sell construction is probably not quite the calculation he’s making. Think of it more as buy-or-hold.

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello
Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello
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The Isles do have players who could be considered assets if made available: Scott Mayfield, Semyon Varlamov, Zach Parise and Hudson Fasching all will be unrestricted free agents this summer and would be of use to contending teams. But in reality, it’s as hard to see any of them wanting to go as it is Lamoriello shipping assets out.

This pair of games against the Jets and Wild, however, could be the Isles’ last chance to prove to their general manager that it is worth adding further after the acquisition of Bo Horvat late last month. Horvat, who signed an eight-year extension before playing his first game with the Isles, was a long-term play as much as immediate help, though the All-Star has quickly become one of the most dependable offensive pieces in the lineup.

With their first-round pick for this summer conditionally sent to Vancouver along with top prospect Aatu Raty, the Isles are unlikely to have enough in their pockets to deal for any of the big names at the deadline. But they do have salary-cap space to work with — $6.7 million as of Saturday, on pace to become $7.7 million on deadline day — and needs on the roster.

Namely, a mobile defenseman and another player who can score would be at the top of the list. During Friday’s loss against the Kings, the Isles seemed to run into an offensive wall, and with Mathew Barzal considered week-to-week, the lineup is lacking in skill and dynamism at the moment. In a 3-2 game in which the Isles had just 14 shots at five-on-five, they couldn’t come up with enough sustained offensive zone time to pressure Jonathan Quick when it mattered.

“When you play against that 1-1-3 [forecheck], they jump at the red [line]. If you don’t have good dump[-ins], they’re sagging a defenseman back, their goalie can get it,” Parise told The Post. “It’s really hard to forecheck that.”

That is an analytical way of saying the Kings found a way to break the Islanders’ forecheck, something that can’t happen for a team that has struggled all year to generate offense in any other way.

This is nothing new. The Isles have struggled to break the puck out for much of the season. It bit them on Friday, but they’ve made it this far.

Can they prove it’s worth getting some more help?

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