Will the Islanders' lack of trade deadline moves help next season? It better
Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz turn 80 and 60, respectively, this year and run a hockey team full of players on the wrong side of 30.
So it is understandable that all concerned are in no mood to blow up what has been a good thing in recent years because of one aberrant (or so they hope) dud of a season.
That’s fine. But by not making any trades before Monday’s deadline with a flawed team that is out of realistic postseason contention, Lamoriello is making a big bet on the 2022-23 season.
He was careful to frame the issue after the deadline came and went.
“It appears that it was just a stand-pat because we’re satisfied,” Lamoriello said. “We are certainly not satisfied.”
So count on changes at the margins this summer. But the general manager noted that with the “turbulence” of this season behind them, the Islanders recently have looked more like the team they were supposed to be.
Asked what he would tell fans about what did not happen Monday, he said, “Certainly this is without question an indication to them that we believed in the group prior to coming in there and we still believe in it.”
Could it work? Sure it could.
But it had better, because by not unloading assets such as Semyon Varlamov for other current or future needs, Lamoriello signaled that he expects this win-now team to win now — or at least next season.
Former free agent-to-be Cal Clutterbuck? He is a valuable player and person to have on one’s team, but he turns 35 in November and re-signed on Monday for two more seasons.
Former free agent-to-be Zach Parise? Another character guy, but one who turns 38 in July and re-signed for one more season.
Varlamov? He turns 34 in April and probably was the Islanders’ most valuable trade bait, but Trotz made it clear what he and Lamoriello were thinking when he was asked about Varlamov on Saturday.
Trotz said a team needs two good goalies to get through an 82-game season. Lamoriello added on Monday that the Islanders’ goaltending situation is “extremely solid.”
So yes, even with Ilya Sorokin as the No. 1 goaltender, the Islanders want Varlamov, too, at a pricey $5 million salary-cap hit in the final year of his contract.
“He’s very important to our goaltending, and in my opinion, he’s very important to the growth and maturity of Ilya Sorokin,” Lamoriello said. “Everybody is always looking for goaltenders, and you don’t give up a goaltender to make another position better and make a bigger hole.”
It was the sort of decision only a team that expects to contend makes, and that is exactly what the Isles expect to do despite their apparent need for more youth, speed and scoring punch.
This aging, contractually locked up, close-knit core is going to get one more shot at this thing after their 2021-22 season was ruined by bizarre scheduling quirks, COVID-19 absences and injuries.
The Islanders have been making a statement of late, playing better hockey and looking like the team everyone expected after back-to-back runs to the NHL semifinals.
Apparently, it was enough to convince Lamoriello and Trotz — who has one season left on his contract — that this is a good thing worth preserving.
Other teams added rental pieces in advance of the playoffs, including the Rangers. But Lamoriello was not interested in rentals; he is looking forward, but not too far forward.
“Usually on this day, trade deadline day, we have something to announce with reference to an acquisition,” he said in his opening remarks to reporters. “We have not changed our roster today.”
Lamoriello hates the trade-deadline buzzwords “buyer” and “seller.” This time he opted for “keeper.”
See you in October!