In a way, this is similar to the weeks preceding a normal training camp, with some players skating informally at their team’s facility and others remaining in their hometowns to train.
Of course, nothing has been normal through the COVID-19 pandemic, which paused the NHL season on March 12.
But Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello confirmed on a teleconference on Friday that all health and safety guidelines have been met and Northwell Health Ice Center will be open on Monday for players to work out in small groups without coaches.
Lamoriello said about one-third of the team’s roster has remained in the Long Island area during the hiatus and the workouts were a “very voluntary situation.”
“As far as how many players will be coming or when they will start, I could not give that answer yet,” Lamoriello said. “I’ll be speaking to each and every one of them over the weekend. Everything has been satisfied for the players.”
The NHL gave the green light on Thursday for Phase 2 reopening. A maximum of six players are allowed in the building at once to either skate or work out off-ice. The team offices remain closed and the building is still closed to the public. Phase 3, the start of formal training camps, is not expected until July 10 at the earliest.
“It’s a step-by-step process and this is the first step,” Lamoriello said. “The preparation for it has been extremely diligent. Our training staff, our equipment staff, our medical people, our support staff, they have done an extensive amount of work over the last several weeks.”
The NHL also announced on Thursday the final details of its return-to-play format, including best-of-seven series through all four rounds of the 16-team playoffs and reseeding within each conference after each round rather than a postseason bracket.
The seventh-seeded Islanders will face the 10th-seeded Florida Panthers in a best-of-five qualifying series, with the winner advancing to the playoffs and the loser entering the NHL’s draft lottery.
“It’s just great to have the ability to get back and play,” Lamoriello said. “There are reasons why those decisions take place. The next season is being thought of. I’m totally supportive of what decisions have been made.”
Lamoriello agreed there was a psychological benefit to having the team’s facility open for the players after almost three months of uncertainty. The reopening of the team’s facility could certainly draw more players back to Long Island.
“They’ll watch and see exactly what the progress is of, will a definite date be decided as to when official training camp will start,” Lamoriello said, referencing ongoing talks between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association. “They’ll adjust accordingly. I’m sure each situation will be different depending upon what they have available to them in the areas they’re at. It’s no different than normal training camp.”
Lamoriello added he had no update on comment on efforts to sign Russian goalie Ilya Sorokin, whose KHL contract with CSKA Moscow expired on April 30 and who has indicated a desire to finally come to North America. The Islanders drafted in the third round in 2014 and Sorokin has been a playoff MVP in the KHL.
“Right now, I have no information other than what everyone else has,” Lamoriello said.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said it was the league’s preference that players who sign contracts now not be made eligible for any remaining play this season, unlike past seasons. Both Sorokin’s representation and Lamoriello are likely waiting for a final resolution before trying to finalize a deal.