Lou Lamoriello of the Islanders, left, and Barry Trotz of the...

Lou Lamoriello of the Islanders, left, and Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators talk during the NHL Draft at the Sphere on Saturday in Las Vegas. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

A predictably quiet Day 2 of NHL free agency for the Islanders does not mean president/general manager Lou Lamoriello has put up the “Gone Fishin’” sign for the summer.

There are still improvements that can be made. There always are.

It will almost certainly be through the trade market that Lamoriello will have to navigate further moves with only around $1 million available against the $88 million salary cap, even though teams can exceed that ceiling by 10% until the season starts.

But even though training camp does not open until mid-September, Lamoriello might be on a tight deadline to execute a trade or two. Just listen to Flyers GM Daniel Briere, who is also pressed against the cap (about $2 million in space) and talking to other teams above possible trades, when asked about making moves in the “coming weeks.”

“Coming weeks might be a little too long because there gets to a point where teams get away for the offseason,” Briere said on Monday hours after the free agent market opened. “GMs get away. In another maybe 10 days, they’ll shut down for four, five weeks, normally. We’re having some discussions with some teams on a few different things. If that doesn’t happen in the next week, there’s a good chance what you see is what will be at training camp.”

Tick, tick, tick . . .

The lone Islanders news on Tuesday came when unrestricted free agent depth defenseman Sebastian Aho, who had played 190 games for the team since 2017, signed a two-year, $1.55 million deal with the Penguins.

Lamoriello signed speedy UFA forward Anthony Duclair away from the Lightning to a four-year, $14 million deal on Monday, quite possibly securing a top-line wing to skate with Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal while also quite possibly closing the door on a return of UFAs Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin. He also re-signed third-pair defenseman Mike Reilly to a one-year, $1.25 million deal that closed the door on Aho’s return and likely does the same for UFA blue-liner Robert Bortuzzo.

Lamoriello has long lamented the difficulty of making “hockey trades,” those predicated on players’ skills and roster compatibility as compared to salary considerations, under a cap that rose only $2 million from 2019 through this summer because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It rose $4.5 million this offseason and is projected to go up another $4 million next summer. There’s finally some financial breathing room.

“It’s predictably unpredictable,” Lamoriello said on Saturday in Las Vegas at the conclusion of the NHL Draft. “There’s just so many variables. But when you think about it, the amount it’s increasing with the way the salary has increased, and then every player thinks all of that money is only for them.”

The Islanders have approximately $87 million allocated to 20 players for a 23-man roster. That does not include defenseman Scott Mayfield ($3.5 million), who ended last season injured, or KHL import Maxim Tsyplakov ($950,000), who Lamoriello expects on the NHL roster. Restricted free agent forwards Simon Holmstrom, Oliver Wahlstrom and Ruslan Iskhakov were all extended qualifying offers and one, possibly two, are expected to be on the NHL roster to start the season.

The Islanders could use more defense depth — right now, Samuel Bolduc, who has yet to develop into an NHL-ready blue-liner, is the seventh defenseman. And they could still use more scoring depth up front.

Right now, the Islanders’ top two lines project as Duclair-Horvat-Barzal, Pierre Engvall/Anders Lee-Brock Nelson-Kyle Palmieri. Acquiring another top-six forward, though, would cost money the Islanders don’t currently have.

So a salary must be moved to execute a “hockey trade.”

Third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, with two seasons remaining on a six-year, $30 million deal, captain Anders Lee, with two seasons left on a seven-year, $49 million deal or Engvall, with six seasons to go on a seven-year, $21 million contract, make the most sense to dangle as trade bait. Nelson, with one season left on a six-year, $36 million deal, is likely who other teams are asking about.

It's a decidedly tough task that awaits Lamoriello, who always cautions to use the time available.

But that time might be growing short.

Tick, tick, tick…


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