The Islanders have had the league’s quietest and most unsuccessful offseason. The team was connected to Johnny Gaudreau and Nazem Kadri, but were unable to land either player. Aside from their involvement with those players, the Islanders have had nothing of interest to report on. However, Lou Lamoriello finally broke his veil of silence on Monday by announcing some internal moves and seemingly taking the Islanders name out of the free agent/trade market. If these are the only signings the Islanders make, will they be enough to help them make the playoffs next season?
The few moves the Islanders had to announce were new contracts to their important restricted free agents. Both Noah Dobson and the newly acquired Alexander Romanov received three-year contracts. Dobson’s contract is worth $4M AAV and Romanov’s is worth $2.5M AAV. Dobson and Romanov are going to be a big part of the Islanders’ top four this season and beyond. Romanov is the only new face the Islanders brought in this offseason, being acquired for the 13th overall pick in the draft. The last of the RFA signings is Kieffer Bellows, who signed on a one-year deal worth $1.2M. Bellows had a bit of a breakout for the Islanders last season and showed potential to be a regular starter given the opportunity.
Don’t Expect Anything Else
Lou Lamoriello’s press availability on Monday strongly pointed to the Islanders sticking with what they have. “I’m actually really excited about the team that we have right now going into the season,” said Lamoriello. He doubled down on this statement, saying he wants to look internally for a sixth defenseman instead of signing one. He also mentioned not liking the price the Islanders would’ve had to pay to make certain trades. And if that isn’t enough to believe the Islanders are done, Lamoriello also said, “Sometimes some of the best transactions you make are the ones you don’t make.”
That does not sound like a general manager interested in making any more new additions to the team. And even if he did, the Islanders have a very minuscule amount of cap space to make something happen. Lamoriello did leave the door open for a trade, noting that it was all about “timing” and finding the right deal. But it feels highly likely that Romanov will be the only outside acquisition joining the team next season.
Did Lou Lamoriello Do Enough?
The Islanders are essentially bringing back the same core from last season, with the addition of Romanov. To Lamoriello’s credit, Romanov was a savvy pickup to upgrade a defensive unit that was often slow and underperformed. But this team had a lot of struggles on the offensive side of the puck, and it isn’t just magically going to get better with the same core back together. The team needs a high-level scorer, and Lamoriello failed to get them one on multiple occasions. He declined to trade for one with the 13th pick and then failed to sign one because he wasn’t content with the price it took to clear cap space.
Bringing back the same core that struggled so mightily against playoff-caliber teams is bound to bring about disappointing results. And yes, part of last year’s struggles was due to issues out of the Islanders’ hands. But the lack of a scheduling nightmare and a COVID situation will only improve their record marginally. This team in its current construction needs something more to stay afloat in a competitive Eastern Conference that keeps getting better. As of right now, it’s hard to believe that the team Lamoriello is bringing into next season is capable of making the postseason.
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