Lou Lamoriello confident in his talented, vaccinated Islanders
Within the Islanders’ organization there is a lone, unnamed minor-leaguer who has chosen not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
As a result, Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said that player will likely skate in Europe this season. He certainly won’t don an Islanders’ jersey.
"Everyone in our organization, that is staff, coaches and players, are vaccinated," Lamoriello said on a pre-training camp teleconference on Tuesday. "We will not allow any player in our organization to participate unless they’re vaccinated."
Training camp opens on Wednesday with the first on-ice sessions on Thursday. The Islanders, who have been to back-to-back NHL semifinals before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Lightning each time, begin a six-game preseason schedule against the Rangers on Sunday at Madison Square Garden and the season-opener is at Carolina on Oct. 14.
Lamoriello believes projecting the top 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies who will ultimately comprise the Islanders’ opening-night lineup is straightforward. And he said it will include captain Anders Lee (right knee), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (hand) and Matt Martin (ankle), all recovering from surgeries, though the three may be eased slowly through the preseason.
Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier, Mathew Barzal, Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, Brock Nelson, Kyle Palmieri, Zach Parise and Oliver Wahlstrom are likely to be the other forwards in the top 12 along with Lee, Pageau and Martin. Zdeno Chara, Noah Dobson, Andy Greene, Scott Mayfield, Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock should be the top six defensemen while Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin will comprise the goalie tandem.
Lamoriello said all players will be tested daily, for now, even though NHL protocols no longer require that.
"We’re very conscious of what’s going on in the world," Lamoriello said. "The delta variant now. We will be taking every possible precaution to proact to keep our players, our staff, our coaches as healthy as we possibly can. And their families."
Lamoriello said both Chara, 44, a future Hall of Famer who played for the Capitals last season, and Parise, 37, who was bought out of the final four seasons of a 13-year, $98 million deal with the Wild, agreed to one-year deals, though the salaries have not been disclosed.
"I think the abilities that they still have, in my opinion, will certainly enhance what we have," Lamoriello said. "Both of these players also bring a character about them. They’ve both been captains of teams. We’re excited to have both of them."
Another option on defense is Erik Gustafsson, 29, who will attend training camp on a professional tryout offer. Gustafsson split last season between the Flyers and Canadiens and has also played for the Blackhawks and the Flames.
Like Chara, Gustafsson is a left-shooting defenseman as the Islanders look to fill the void created when Nick Leddy was traded to the Red Wings for salary-cap purposes.
"He wanted to come, knowing that we did have an opening," Lamoriello said. "No promises."
Lamoriello also mentioned "several young players that are capable in the future, and who knows how soon, and we’ll just have patience."
Most likely, Lamoriello was referring to defense prospects Samuel Bolduc, Robin Salo and Bode Wilde.
Notes & quotes: Lamoriello said goalie Cory Schneider has agreed to a two-way deal to return to the organization and that Michael Dal Colle, a restricted free agent who has played 111 games for the Islanders, will also be at training camp…The Islanders announced on Monday that forwards Andy Andreoff, Cole Bardreau, Otto Koivula and Dmytro Timashov and defenseman Paul LaDue had all agreed to deals…Lamoriello said the first sheet of black ice was put down at UBS Arena at Belmont Park on Tuesday.