=Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello watches his team during practice...

=Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello watches his team during practice at UBS Arena on, Nov. 18, 2021 in Elmont, Credit: Jim McIsaac

Change is easy to demand, hard to enact. Especially if there are differing evaluations of the situation.

Right now, it’s hard to tell whether the Islanders’ leadership agrees with the breakup day assessment of their players that this group can still contend for the Stanley Cup. Honestly, it should be considered a very debatable question and Islanders’ ownership needs to (quickly) make a clear determination as to which path this franchise is on.

The Islanders are coming off a middle-of-the-pack, 42-31-9 wild-card season and six-game ouster in the first-round to the injury-depleted Metropolitan Division-champion Hurricanes. Eleven players on the Islanders’ playoff roster were on the north side of 30 and the team has approximately $76.6 million committed to 18 players for next season under what his expected to be an $83.5 million cap.

President/general manager Lou Lamoriello is believed to be coming to the end of his five-year deal to run the Islanders but there’s been no indication from ownership — specifically Scott Malkin — whether an extension is forthcoming nor has Lamoriello spoken publicly since the end of the season. Coach Lane Lambert hasn’t spoken since the Islanders’ 2-1 overtime loss in Game 6 on April 28.

Until either or both speak again, or ownership chimes in with its views, the questions surrounding their future with the organization will only rightfully grow.

There are arguments both for staying the course with Lamoriello/Lambert and giving this group another run and for believing this group has gone as far as it can as constituted.

Lamoriello’s win-now philosophy has gotten him into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder but the Islanders need only look across the Hudson River to the at-long-last revitalized Devils to see a glimpse of what post-Lamoriello life might be like.

Lamoriello has traded away four straight first-round picks with the Islanders and the prospect pool is thin. He left the Devils for the Maple Leafs in 2015 with New Jersey’s system threadbare and it’s really taken until this past season for the Devils to truly rebound.

The contracts of Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin and Josh Bailey, if he’s not traded or bought out, all expire after next season so there will be a lot more roster flexibility to rebuild/retool in the summer of 2024, when franchise goalie Ilya Sorokin will be a commanding a new mega-deal if he hasn’t already received one. So ownership might decide it’s best to put off the overhaul for at least a year. Of course, Lamoriello likely would not settle for just a one-year extension.

Or, whoever is next in charge, could try to break up the core now. Defenseman Scott Mayfield is an unrestricted free agent who might not fit under the cap. Bailey could be moved. The Islanders could send out feelers as to how big a haul they could get for moving Brock Nelson or Jean-Gabriel Pageau, both who have modified no-trade clauses.

It’s hard to get a sense of what evaluation is being made on the Islanders’ future.

And that’s job No. 1.

Sorokin for Vezina

The three Vezina Trophy finalists will be announced on Thursday and while the Bruins’ Linus Ullmark (40-6-1, 1.89 goals-against average, .938 save percentage) is expected to ultimately win the award as the NHL’s top goalie as voted upon by the league’s general managers, Ilya Sorokin’s teammates naturally believe he should be included in the trio.

“Definitely, he deserves it,” said Semyon Varlamov, Sorokin’s goalie partner the past three seasons. “In my mind, he deserves to win the Vezina this year. He played outstanding.”

Sorokin, playing a career-high 62 games, went 31-22-7 with a 2.33 GAA and a .924 save percentage.

“His play just speaks for itself,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “He’s pretty much perfect. In terms of most valuable players to their team, I would say he’s right up there in the conversation with anyone.”

But Sorokin certainly wasn’t campaigning for the honor.

“I never think about individual awards,” Sorokin said. “It’s nothing if you don’t have a team.”

Johnston’s development

Ross Johnston just completed his fifth full season with the Islanders yet played just 16 games with two assists and 37 penalty minutes as he spent long stretches as a healthy scratch. He’s played just 110 games in that five-season span and only 134 career NHL games overall with nine goals, 15 assists and 283 penalty minutes. He’ll turn 30 in the middle of next season.

“There’s different ways you can develop and that is from practicing or playing,” said the 6-5, 230-pound Johnston, who has three seasons remaining on a four-year, $4.4 million deal. “But, for me, it is coming to a point where you want to get in games more and more.”

Horvat loves LI

Bo Horvat was acquired from the Canucks on Jan. 30 and, in short order, agreed to an eight-year, $68 million deal even though he was largely unfamiliar with Long Island. He was asked at Monday’s breakup day whether he thought his signing might change the perception of the Islanders being a destination most free agents want to avoid.

“I don’t know why this place has gotten that reputation from a lot of people,” Horvat said. “I just think it’s such a hidden gem for many reasons: Living, family, organization, team and facilities. I love it here and I’ve only been here for three months.”


FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.