What will Lou do?
The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 25. Lou Lamoriello’s Islanders lead the Metropolitan Division and are barreling toward their first playoff berth since 2016.
And while the trade market might be energized by the last-place Senators (who could move center Matt Duchene and/or winger Mark Stone as top-end rentals) or the Blue Jackets (who could dangle playmaker Artemi Panarin and/or goalie Sergei Bobrovsky), all eyes in the NHL are on the wily and secretive Lamoriello to see how aggressive he will be in his first season as the Islanders’ president of hockey operations and general manager.
Or whether he opts to stand pat – which he indicated on Saturday was a consideration – with a team that includes goalie Robin Lehner and the top line of Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle as impending unrestricted free agents.
“I am very comfortable with this hockey team,” Lamoriello said. “Our coaching staff has done an outstanding job and the players have done an outstanding job buying into what’s been asked.
“I think it’s a very difficult week for players, or organizations,” Lamoriello added. “You have to be very, very careful. There are so many factors involved, whether it’s the chemistry of your team, needs and making sure that it doesn’t get in the way of what’s transpiring.”
Still, Lamoriello’s actions since taking over the Devils in 1987 and through his three-season tenure as the Maple Leafs’ general manager before joining the Islanders have shown that he is an aggressive trader who almost always is in win-now mode, often striking well before the deadline.
The Islanders have relied on the league’s stingiest defense and a balanced scoring attack, but they had scored as many as four goals only twice in an 11-game span entering Saturday night’s game against the Oilers at Barclays Center. A scoring forward who can bolster the 27th-ranked power play almost certainly is Lamoriello’s priority.
Duchene, Stone or Panarin all could be significant additions for the playoff push, but they would come at a high cost in terms of draft picks, prospects or players off the NHL roster.
Ditto for Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds, whose combination of physicality and skill would be akin to what coach Barry Trotz had in Tom Wilson with the Capitals.
The Rangers have had scouts at several recent Islanders games, so it’s possible Lamoriello has inquired about center Kevin Hayes or right wing Mats Zuccarello.
The Ducks had a scout in Columbus on Thursday and Lamoriello might be intrigued by Anaheim’s Adam Henrique, whom he drafted for the Devils and can play either center or left wing.
Lamoriello likely would be interested in Jeff Skinner if the Sabres opt to dangle him. Blues center Brayden Schenn, whom Lamoriello has seen play recently, also seems like a good fit.
The truth is, few people know what Lamoriello truly is thinking. And the few who do know also know enough not to cross him by talking.
What will Lou do? It will become clear after he does it.
Kyle Okposo spent 2008-16 with the Islanders, and in all but his final season, they played at Nassau Coliseum.
So when the Sabres right wing was asked where he thinks the Islanders should play their postseason games — at the Coliseum or at Barclays Center — Okposo needed little time before answering.
“There’s one choice, and that’s it,” Okposo said. The Coliseum.
The Isles announced Friday that if they qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2016, they will play first-round games at the Coliseum and any additional rounds at Barclays Center.
The Islanders played their final regular-season game in Brooklyn on Saturday against the Oilers. Their final 12 home games will be at the Coliseum, including against the Sabres on March 30.
“Yeah, I’m excited,” Okposo said. “I knew they were playing a fair amount of their games there. But I didn’t know right when the schedule came out where we would play. The fact that we’re playing at the Coli, that’s home. That’s home on the Island for me. I played my first seven years there. That’s probably where they should be.”
He's chill, too
Islanders goalie Robin Lehner, a former Sabre, was fielding questions in Buffalo on Tuesday morning about goalie partner Thomas Greiss’ reputation of having a relaxed personality.
Lehner agreed that Greiss is “chill.”
“I think we’re both relaxed, laid back,” Lehner said. “I had a reputation before which I didn’t think was called for, an aggressive goalie. I think I’ve been in four, five scrums all career and I haven’t had one fight in this league. I’ve been pretty laid back.”
Here are the NHL deadline-day trades the Islanders completed the last 10 seasons under former GM Garth Snow:
2018 – Acquired LW Chris Wagner from Ducks for LW Jason Chimera
2016 – Acquired F Marc-Andre Cliché from Avalanche for F Taylor Beck; Acquired F Shane Prince and seventh-round pick from Senators for third-round pick
2015 – Acquired D Mark Louis from Coyotes for G David Leggio; Acquired F Dustin Jeffrey from Canucks for F Cory Conacher; Acquired G Michal Neuvirth from Sabres for G Chad Johnson and third-round pick; Acquired F Tyler Kennedy from Sharks for conditional third-round pick
2014 – Acquired F Sebastien Collberg and second-round pick from Canadiens for F Thomas Vanek
2012 – Acquired F Yannick Riendeau and D Marc Cantin from Bruins for F Brian Rolston and D Mike Mottau
2009 – Acquired a conditional draft pick from Penguins for F Bill Guerin