There will be plenty of contenders for roster spots at center at the Islanders’ training camp this September.
The Islanders on Monday announced the signing of Czech-born center Jan Kovar, 28, who played the past five seasons in the Russian KHL and had 97 goals and 189 assists in 285 games for Magnitogorsk Metallurg. The 5-10, 171-pound Kovar agreed to a one-year, $2-million deal.
“We feel very good about the depth we have at center ice,” Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “A couple of players are going to be pushing each other.”
Lamoriello previously signed centers Leo Komarov (four years, $12 million) and Valtteri Filppula (one year, $2.75 million), who were unrestricted free agents. The Islanders also have centers Mathew Barzal and Casey Cizikas, and Lamoriello expressed confidence that restricted free agent Brock Nelson, who filed for arbitration after receiving a $3.5-million qualifying offer, will be on the roster.
Lamoriello said Kovar, who drew interest from several other NHL teams, will be a “top-nine” forward for the Islanders. He added that it is impossible to speculate on the roster makeup until he and new coach Barry Trotz can evaluate players during training camp.
“Jan was looking for the best fit for his style of play, a great coach and opportunity,” said Kovar’s agent, Allan Walsh. “It’s always been his dream to play in the NHL and now he’s getting ready for the challenge of adjusting to the smaller ice and helping bring his team success.”
Gritty left wing Ross John s ton, 24, a restricted free agent who was extended a $735,000 qualifying offer, agreed to a four-year, $4-million one-way deal with the Islanders.
The 6-5, 235-pound Johnston had three goals, three assists and 62 penalty minutes in 24 games for the Islanders last season, his first in the NHL after signing as an undrafted free agent out of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2014.
Luke Richardson, an assistant coach for former Islanders coach Doug Weight, has accepted the same position on Claude Julien’s staff in Montreal, the Canadiens announced Monday.
Richardson, 49, a defenseman who played for the Maple Leafs, Oilers, Flyers, Blue Jackets, Lightning and Senators from 1987-2008, spent one season as an Islanders assistant. He also has served as a Senators assistant coach and as head coach of the Senators’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton.
The Islanders hired former Capitals assistant Lane Lambert as associate coach Thursday, replacing the fired Greg Cronin.
Assistants Kelly Buchberger and Scott Gomez and goalie coach Fred Brathwaite remain from Weight’s staff, though Trotz acknowledged last week that the Islanders have spoken to Capitals director of goaltending Mitch Korn about a position.