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Lou Lamoriello comfortable with roster but Islanders GM always looking to improve

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello observes practice during

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello observes practice during training camp at the Northwell Health Ice Center on Jan. 12. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Lou Lamoriello says he’s very comfortable with his roster as presently constituted.

Which is not to say the Islanders president and general manager is definitely done dealing before Monday’s trade deadline.

There’s still approximately $3 million left in salary cap space and the always-pressing need to strengthen the defense depth in case of injury, though two potential targets went elsewhere on Saturday.

The wily Lamoriello could still even be looking to bring in more depth up front after acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils on Wednesday at the cost of a first-round pick this year, a conditional fourth-round pick in 2022 and minor-leaguers A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst.

 

Crucially, the Devils retained 50% of both Palmieri and Zajac’s cap hit, leaving the Islanders with further cap flexibility.

"The one thing that each and every general manager goes through is that you always want to make your team better," Lamoriello said in announcing Wednesday’s trade. "You have to be very careful of the decisions you make. In saying that, if there’s a chance to get better, you have to do that. And then, at what price is it?

"We’re pretty much content with what we have and who we have right now. In fact, extremely comfortable."

It’s strongly believed the Islanders had multiple talks with the Sabres about former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall before going for the Palmieri/Zajac two-fer.

There would have to be some higher mathematical gymnastics to fit Hall — on a one-year, $8 million deal — into the Islanders’ cap structure. But, while highly unlikely, it can’t be completely discounted Lamoriello won’t circle back on that.

The Sabres traded right-shooting defenseman Brandon Montour to the Panthers on Saturday. Montour, who has previous playoff experience with the Ducks, has been above-average despite the overwhelming awfulness in Buffalo this season.

Blue Jackets’ right-shooting defenseman David Savard was on his way to the Lightning.

The Sabres may be taking calls on right-shooting defenseman Colin Miller ($3.88 million cap hit). But he is a combined minus-6 in six games against the Islanders and looked worse than those stats suggest. Other right-shooting defenseman who could be traded include the Ducks’ Josh Manson ($4.1 million) and the Senators’ Erik Gudbranson ($4 million).

Coach Barry Trotz has stuck with his top six defensemen — lefties Adam Pelech, Nick Leddy and Andy Greene and righties Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Noah Dobson — in all but the eight games Dobson was forced to miss because of COVID-19 protocols.

Lefty Thomas Hickey gave a reminder he was still a viable NHL defenseman in Dobson’s absence. But fellow lefty Sebastian Aho, a 25-year-old who has played just 25 NHL games, is currently the Islanders’ next blue-line option.

Acquiring a righty — and Lamoriello likely would have to entice any trade partner to retain salary — would give the Islanders experienced options on both sides.

Familiar faces

There certainly was an air of familiarity for newly-acquired Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac after Wednesday’s trade with the Devils.

And it went beyond having former Devils teammates Andy Greene and Cory Schneider with them with the Islanders.

Don’t discount the benefit of Palmieri and Zajac staying within the East Division in this unique season shortened to 56 games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only did they not have to quarantine before joining the Islanders, there’s the familiarity of facing the same opponents as they did with the Devils.

For this season only, all play is within the division.

"The way the schedule works out, you’re playing all these teams eight times and there’s a couple we’ve seen already eight times," Palmieri said. "It’s nice to have the comfort level of knowing some of those teams’ tendencies. Playing in this division the last couple of years, you get familiar with some of the guys and some of the plays that they make. That helps on joining this team. You know the way they play."

Palmieri and Zajac faced the Islanders six times with the Devils this season and will have two chances to face their former team in May.

The Devils have already played eight games against the Capitals, battling the Islanders for first in the East, and the Sabres. The Islanders have three games remaining against the Capitals and two against the Sabres.

Shootout aces

Thursday’s 3-2, five-round shootout win over the Flyers improved the Islanders to 86-68 in shootouts since the NHL adapted the tie-breaker in 2005. That’s the most shootout wins in the NHL. Here are three, top-three shootout lists through Friday’s play:

Wins

1. Islanders – 86

2. Penguins – 83

3. Sabres – 80

Winning %

1. Avalanche – .635 (73-42)

2. Penguins – .610 (83-53)

3. Islanders – .558 (86-68)

Number of shootouts

1. Panthers – 168 (71-97)

2. Devils – 161 (78-83)

3. Islanders – 154 (86-68)

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