Lou Lamoriello likes his team exactly the way it is. So much so that the Islanders’ president and general manager stood pat as the NHL trade deadline passed on Monday afternoon.
“We weren’t going to get into a situation where we sacrificed what our plan is because we feel very good about this hockey team,” Lamoriello said minutes after the 3 p.m. deadline.
“You have to be extremely careful at this time because whenever you add somebody, it takes away from somebody else and somebody moves into a different spot,” he added. “Whatever we potentially could have done would not have been the best thing. It might have looked like we were doing something. But you don’t do something for the sake of doing something. We’re extremely pleased with where we are.”
The Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders (36-18-7) will open a five-game homestand on Tuesday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum against the Pacific Division-leading Flames, the start of a stretch of eight of nine at home.
Left wing Andrew Ladd and defenseman Thomas Hickey are expected to be activated off long-term injured reserve and return to the Islanders’ lineup against the Flames.
“It’d be pretty tough to add those type of players at the trade deadline,” Lamoriello said. “It certainly helps.”
He cautioned that “our players can’t get comfortable.” Still, he said they should see the lack of moves as a sign of trust.
“I don’t think too many of our players were uncomfortable because when you play well, you get rewarded for playing well,” Lamoriello said. “Hopefully they see the trust and also the confidence we have in them.”
Islanders coach Barry Trotz tried to ease any deadline-day tension among his players — who certainly acted as if it were just another day at the rink — by delaying the start of Monday morning’s practice for a short speech.
“I know some guys are nervous,” Trotz said. “On most teams, probably half the team is nervous and probably half the team is fine. I just said to the guys before we started, ‘Everybody who is here right now deserves the opportunity to stay and we’ve done a good job as a collective group. The strength is our group. If this is the group we’re going with, we’re fine with it.’ ’’
By not making any moves, Lamoriello risks losing some of his impending unrestricted free agents without compensation, as was the case when John Tavares left via free agency for his hometown Maple Leafs last July.
Goalie Robin Lehner and the top line of Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle are among seven potential UFAs.
“I think this is certainly an indication of what we think of them and also what we think of our own team,” Lamoriello said. “We’ll do everything we can to keep them. We’ll address it accordingly.”
While the Islanders stood pat, their closest divisional pursuers were active.
The second-place Capitals, who are two points behind the Islanders, brought in left wing Carl Hagelin from the Kings and defenseman Nick Jensen from the Red Wings.
The third-place Blue Jackets were the most active leading into the trade deadline, acquiring backup goalie Keith Kinkaid of Farmingville from the Devils and gritty defenseman Adam McQuaid from the Rangers on Monday. They already had acquired top-end rental forwards Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel from the Senators in separate deals.
“I don’t think anything anyone [else] does should impact what you’re doing,” Lamoriello said. “You should be competing against yourself to be the best you possibly can so that the group that you have can then go and compete against someone else. It’s not that you do something because somebody else did something.”