At least Andrew Ladd knows what to expect with his latest rehab efforts.
And the left wing is still “optimistic” he will be ready for the start of the Islanders’ training camp in September after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee suffered on March 24.
But there are no guarantees Ladd will be healthy for the start of 2019-20, considering he also missed 44 games from Nov. 15-Feb. 23 with an injured right knee.
“I guess you never know, especially with these,” Ladd told Newsday on Monday as the Islanders conducted their exit interviews at East Meadow. “It’s such a major surgery. You never really know how it’s going to react. I’ve never really been through one before but the process I went through with the right [knee], I think I have a good kind of route to go in, in terms of what I need to do and how to get there.”
Still, Ladd’s long-term future with the Islanders must be questioned after two knee injuries in one season despite the four seasons remaining on his seven-year, $38.5-million deal.
“Everything is good, on track,” said Ladd, expected to miss five months following his surgery. “It’s just a slow process. They had to do a little bit more than they originally thought. With the stuff I did for my right knee when I did that one, it gives me a lot in terms of rehab of what to expect. And that one went really well. Hopefully, this one goes similar.”
Ladd, 33, knows how much of a setback missing training camp can be since that’s how this season started for him. He was out for the preseason plus the first three games of the season with what was believed to be a back injury that flared on the first day of practice.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate in my career in terms of staying healthy,” said Ladd, who won Stanley Cups with the Hurricanes in 2006 and the Blackhawks in 2010. “It takes a little bit of luck in that regard. Two injuries that just sort of happened in the game and it’s unfortunate they happened within a six-month timeframe of each other.”
The unknown for the Islanders is whether they will see a decent return on their investment in Ladd. He had three goals and eight assists in 26 games after combining for 35 goals and 25 assists in 151 games the first two seasons of his mega-deal.
Ladd has a no-trade clause for the coming season and then a modified no-trade clause — he can submit a list of 15 teams to which he cannot be dealt — in the final three seasons of his contract.
The Islanders would save only $666,667 against the salary cap through 2023 by buying him out and would save just more than $1 million against the cap annually if he clears waivers and is sent to Bridgeport, per capfriendly.com.
But Ladd bristled when asked if he was worried whether his career was in jeopardy.
“No,” Ladd said. “I think at the end of the year, you regroup. You forge on. You try to get better in a bunch of different ways. That’s the mindset you have to have. Every day. You try to get better and, with this, try to show up and get this thing where it needs to be.”
‘It’s on me’
Barry Trotz didn’t hesitate to list goal production from the forwards as an area where the Islanders need to improve when asked on Monday.
“We need a little more pop up front,” the coach said. “We knew that, I think, all year.”
Yet president and general manager Lou Lamoriello stood pat at the Feb. 25 trade deadline. At the time, he said he felt confident in the group and they deserved a chance to stick together for the playoff run.
He added then, “You don’t do something for the sake of doing something,” indicating any trades he could have made would have come at too high a cost either for the roster or the team’s future assets.
The Islanders were in first place in the Metropolitan Division at 36-18-7 at the trade deadline. But they lost three of their next four and went 12-9-0 overall the rest of the season.
“You’re never happy, you can always get better,” Lamoriello said on Monday. “But it comes down to what’s the price that you have to pay to get better. What are you subtracting. I’ve always said there’s a five-year plan that changes every day. It’s obvious that if we could have gotten better without sacrificing the future, we would have done that. But, obviously, we couldn’t.
“It’s on me that we couldn’t get that done.”
The Islanders’ playoff run certainly didn’t end the way Jordan Eberle wanted and it remains to be seen whether the Hurricanes’ four-game sweep in the second round will stand as the right wing’s swan song with the team.
Still, Eberle’s second playoff experience in his nine NHL seasons went way better than his first.
“Coming in from two years ago in the playoffs when I didn’t play well, this year I really wanted to prove myself,” Eberle said. “I thought I did that.”
Eberle, an impending unrestricted free agent as he concludes a six-year, $36-million deal, had a goal in each game of the Islanders’ first-round sweep of the Penguins and had an assist in each of the last three games against the Hurricanes.
Overall, Eberle led the Islanders in playoff scoring with four goals and five assists.
He had two assists in 13 postseason games for the Oilers in 2017 and that lack of production was a big reason the Oilers shipped him to the Islanders for Ryan Strome on June 22, 2017.
“The playoffs, I haven’t gone to too often, but every year when you get to them, that’s the time of the year you want to play,” Eberle said. “It’s fun and I haven’t really experienced that. Even that one year, I was used as a bit of a scapegoat so it wasn’t as much fun as it should have been.”
Here are some key offseason dates:
May 27-June 1: Scouting Combine, Buffalo
June 19: NHL Awards Show, Las Vegas
June 20: NHL General Managers Meeting, Vancouver
June 21-22: NHL Draft, Vancouver
June 23-30: Unrestricted free agent interview window
June 24-28: (Projected): Islanders prospect development camp
July 1: Free agent market opens at noon
July 5: Deadline for player-elected salary arbitration
July 6: Deadline for team-elected salary arbitration
July 20-Aug. 4: Salary arbitration hearings