Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello watches practice at the Northwell Health...

Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello watches practice at the Northwell Health Ice Center at Eisenhower Park on Sept. 23, 2021. Credit: Getty Images/Bruce Bennett

There still are possibilities this offseason for the Islanders. Fewer now, as most NHL teams are deep into their offseason shopping lists, but there are always possibilities.

For instance, Avalanche unrestricted free agent center Nazem Kadri, who, oddly, remains unsigned 11 days after the free agent market opened. A cynical person might think that has uber-secretive Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello written all over it.

In fact, it’s very reminiscent of last offseason, when the Islanders didn’t announce they had re-signed Kyle Palmieri to a four-year, $20 million deal until Sept. 1. Palmieri’s name was conspicuous in its omission among the players who quickly signed after the bell rang on last year’s free agent market.

Speculation aside, another possibility went off the board late Friday as the Flames, having already lost one elite scoring wing, Johnny Gaudreau, to the Blue Jackets in free agency, traded another, Matthew Tkachuk, to the Panthers.

But the Islanders, sorely in need of a scoring forward, have been — and remain — largely silent this offseason, other than acquiring 22-year-old defenseman Alexander Romanov from the Canadiens for the 13th overall pick in last month’s NHL Draft.

Despite the dwindling talent pool of potential acquisitions, there definitely is work to be done for Lamoriello, work that he himself laid out earlier this offseason. In addition to a forward, preferably a scoring wing, the Islanders need another defenseman.

It’s unfair to call the Islanders’ silence odd because that’s how Lamoriello operates. But it surely was frustrating for the fan base to see Gaudreau sign a seven-year, $68.25 million deal with the Blue Jackets and then have the product of Salem, New Jersey, explain that he wanted to be in Columbus, Ohio, above his other options, which included the Islanders and Devils.

Then Gaudreau’s former teammate, Tkachuk, also informed the Flames that he did not intend to sign long-term with the franchise and was put on the trade market. Tkachuk, 24, who had 42 goals and 62 assists in 82 games last season, would have filled a vital need for the Islanders, but there never seemed to be a path to Lamoriello having the financial flexibility to make that deal.

The Islanders have approximately $11.2 million in available space under the $82.5 million salary cap — which teams can exceed by 10% until the season — but still must re-sign restricted free agents Romanov, fellow defenseman Noah Dobson and forward Kieffer Bellows. Given that the Panthers moved Jonathan Huberdeau, who had 30 goals and 85 assists last season, for Tkachuk, it stands to reason that Lamoriello would have had to include Mathew Barzal in any deal with the Flames. That would have defeated a lot of the purpose of acquiring Tkachuk.

Barzal, by the way, is entering the final season of his three-year, $21 million deal and is headed toward being a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Obtaining a long-term commitment from Barzal soon will become a pressing priority.

Speaking of RFAs, after signing Gaudreau, the Blue Jackets were able to re-sign Patrik Laine to a four-year, $34.8 million deal that will keep the sniper from being a UFA until he’s 28. In turn, the Blue Jackets were forced to dump the remaining four seasons of Oliver Bjorkstrand’s five-year, $27 million deal to the Kraken for third- and fourth-round picks.

Bjorkstrand, who had 28 goals and 29 assists last season, led the Blue Jackets in goals the past three seasons. He would have helped the Islanders, and it would seem the Islanders could have put together a better package than the Kraken did.

But as mentioned, there still are possibilities for improvement, Kadri being at the forefront.

Kadri, who will turn 32 on Oct. 6 and played for Lamoriello when the veteran executive was the Maple Leafs’ GM, had 28 goals and 59 assists in 71 games for the Avalanche and added seven goals and eight assists in the playoffs en route to the Stanley Cup. After Gaudreau, Kadri is one of the premier free agent targets.

Signing Kadri would give the Islanders five quality centers, including Barzal, Brock Nelson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Casey Cizikas. Barzal could be asked to move to wing. Or Lamoriello could try to trade Pageau, who has four seasons left on his six-year, $30 million deal, for a top-four defenseman. Pageau does have a modified no-trade clause — he can list 16 teams to which he won’t accept a trade — over the life of his contract.

If Lamoriello cannot acquire another defenseman, that seemingly would clear a path for Robin Salo, 23, to earn a spot among the top six. Sebastian Aho, 26, just re-upped for two years with a cap hit of $825,000. He’ll likely be the seventh defenseman, at least.

Bridgeport schedule

The Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport will open its season on Oct. 14 at Providence before its home opener against Laval on Oct. 22. Bridgeport’s 72-game regular season ends at Providence on April 15.


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