If Healthy, Star Winger's Return Would Be Like A High-Impact Trade Deadline Deal

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Several factors played into why the Islanders didn’t try to make a bigger splash at the trade deadline. The impending return of star winger Kyle Okposo was certainly one of them.

According to Newsday, Okposo returned to the ice Monday for the first time since going down with a reported eye injury prior to the All-Star break in January, skating at the team’s practice facility in Syosset, N.Y.

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The Islanders, who are tied for first place in the Metropolitan Division, were in Dallas on Tuesday for the opener of a four-game road trip. The belief is Okposo could rejoin the team by mid-to-late March.

When he does return the Isles will be getting back a player who despite missing 18 games is still second on the team in scoring with 44 points. The Islanders are 10-7-1 without Okposo, but there’s no question top line center John Tavares, who is in contention for the league scoring title, would benefit greatly from the return of his top wingman.

The other reason why the Isles took a more conservative approach at the deadline had to do with their lack of desirable draft picks.

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Having expended this year’s first- and second-round picks in the failed 2013 trade with Buffalo that temporarily brought over sniper Thomas Vanek, and second-round picks in both 2015 and ’16, plus a conditional third rounder in the October 2014 trade that landed defenseman Johnny Boychuk, the Isles were not in a position on Monday to give up the types of assets most contending teams parted with to solidify themselves for a playoff run.

Instead, general manager Garth Snow plugged holes, acquiring a solid depth forward with considerable playoff experience in Tyler Kennedy and a more reliable backup goalie in Michal Neuvirth.

But the Isles know getting Okposo back, in addition to valuable fourth line center Casey Cizikas (lower body), in the coming weeks will be just as good, if not better, than spending a lot for an unknown.

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New York also hopes to get veteran center Mikhail Grabovski back from an upper body injury before the playoffs, but his timetable is not believed to be as accelerated as Okposo’s.