Islanders stay together at trade deadline, but now they have to get it done
Now comes the hard part for the Islanders.
President and general manager Lou Lamoriello showed extreme trust in his team by not dealing away any players prior to the NHL trade deadline, even with the Islanders almost certain to miss the playoffs for the first time in four seasons under him and coach Barry Trotz.
There’s now an onus to repay that trust.
“Winning, plain and simple,” Trotz said before Tuesday night’s 3-0 win over the Senators at UBS Arena, which extended the Islanders’ run to 7-2-1. “Management has said this group can get it done. So it’s their responsibility to not start [to wait until] next year. Let’s continue where we are and build from here. Let’s finish strong. Let’s finish the way we need to play. And we’ll start next year with hopefully a little more traction than we got this year.”
Lamoriello’s only moves before Monday’s deadline were to re-sign Cal Clutterbuck to a two-year, $3.5 million deal and Zach Parise to a one-year deal with a salary-cap charge of $750,000.
Lamoriello has showfaith in the group before, adding Jean-Gabriel Pageau and defenseman Andy Greene for the playoff push two seasons ago and Kyle Palmieri, along with the now-retired Travis Zajac, for last season’s playoff push. Both resulted in runs to the NHL semifinals.
Lamoriello is betting that this season’s expected playoff miss is more the result of outside factors — from COVID-19 outbreaks to long breaks in the schedule and multiple postponements — than an indication the group has slipped greatly.
Sunday’s 2-1 loss in Philadelphia snapped an encouraging 5-0-1 run for the Islanders.
“I just think we’ve got to get back to how we play,” defenseman Scott Mayfield said. “We’ve seen that a little bit more here in recent games. We have an identity. We believe in this group. Obviously, they believe in this group. So it’s something we want to accomplish together.”
Emphasis on the together part.
The Islanders are particularly tight-knit with many of the core players pre-dating Lamoriello and Trotz in the organization.
To them, Monday was a good day when Clutterbuck and Parise along with impending unrestricted free agent defensemen Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara were not traded as playoff rentals. Goalie Semyon Varlamov, whose four-year, $20 million deal runs through next season, also drew interest on the trade market.
“That’s nice,” Brock Nelson said of Clutterbuck and Parise being re-signed. “Two big parts of our team. You talk about depth up front and I think you can say both of those guys provide a lot for us. Cal’s a leader for us. Zach is probably the hardest worker on the team.
Clutterbuck was also asked about the responsibility the players bear to prove Lamoriello’s trust is well placed.
“I think it’s more opportunity than responsibility,” Clutterbuck said. “I think we believe in the group the same way that Lou believes in the group. I just view it as an opportunity to be with this group of guys. I’ve been with the core of these guys for a long time. We say it all the time, I just feel it’s different. The feeling that I have with this group of guys is something you don’t really find often and it’s an opportunity for us to go out there and accomplish the ultimate goal.”
Most outside observers around the NHL expected Lamoriello to be a seller.
But the Islanders weren’t necessarily surprised Lamoriello did not make a trade.
“I don’t think anything surprises me,” Mayfield said. “We believe in this group. It’s nice to see that vote of confidence from management as well. I was happy to see the signings. I think it was a good day.”