Lou Lamoriello started to dig into his offseason to-do list on Monday, a day before the start of the two-day NHL Draft.
The Islanders re-signed pending restricted free agent defenseman Sebastian Aho and extended qualifying offers to eight of their nine remaining RFAs, including forwards Mathew Barzal and Josh Ho-Sang and defensemen Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews.
Qualifying offers were due by Wednesday at 5 p.m. and the market for unrestricted free agents opens Friday at noon. Goalie Thomas Greiss, defenseman Andy Greene and forwards Derick Brassard, Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Martin are unrestricted free agents. The Islanders may need to move some salary to comfortably re-sign the players they want and to potentially acquire scoring help, particularly for the power play.
The draft, conducted virtually in deference to the COVID-19 pandemic, begins on Tuesday night at 7 with the first round. Rounds 2-7 will be conducted on Wednesday beginning at 11:30 a.m. Barring a deal, the Islanders do not have a pick until the third round (No. 90), having sent their first- and second-round picks to the Ottawa Senators for Jean-Gabriel Pageau at the trade deadline on Feb. 24.
"There’s definitely going to be players selected at 90 or beyond that go on and be real good players in the NHL," NHL Network analyst Brian Lawton said. "The reason I would be a little bit more bullish for a Lou Lamoriello-run team, a team that’s very buttoned up, is I think, because of the pandemic, some of the normalcy of how teams do business has been lost."
The Islanders, who reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1993 before bowing to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Tampa Bay Lightning in six games, have one pick apiece in rounds 3-7, selecting 28th in each round (Nos. 90, 121, 152, 183 and 214).
"What is their tech staff’s ability to use technology to do the work that they normally have done in the field?" said Lawton, the first American to be selected No. 1 overall when he was taken by the Minnesota North Stars in 1983 and later, after nine NHL seasons, a players’ agent and then general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"That’s going to create a lot of chaos but also a lot of opportunity," Lawton added. "I’m not saying that Lou Lamoriello is the most tech-savvy person. But his organization is so well run, he’s so organized with how he approaches everything. I expect them to do well and to come up with a player."
Though it might not collectively be the first item checked off on Lamoriello’s offseason list, re-signing his RFAs is the priority.
Aho, who has played 22 games for the Islanders since being selected in the fifth round in 2017, agreed to a two-year deal with financial terms not disclosed. An NHL source confirmed it is a two-way contract for the first season and a one-way deal in the second season.
Defensemen Kyle Burroughs, Grant Hutton, Mitch Vande Sompel and Parker Wotherspoon also were extended qualifying offers. Goalie Linus Soderstrom, who has battled injuries since being a fourth-round pick in 2014, was not extended a qualifying offer and will become a UFA. He currently is playing in Finland.
Both Barzal, who had a base salary of $832,500 last season, and Toews ($750,000) must be qualified at 105%. Pulock, whose base salary was $2.65 million last season, can be qualified at 100%. Both Pulock and Toews, however, are arbitration eligible.
So is Ho-Sang, who spent the end of last season on loan to the St. Louis Blues’ AHL affiliate. The offensive-gifted but mercurial Ho-Sang has seven goals and 17 assists in 53 games for the Islanders since being selected 28th overall in 2014.