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Lou Lamoriello still has work to do to bolster Isles’ defense

Lou Lamoriello speaks to the media after the

Lou Lamoriello speaks to the media after the NHL Draft at the United Center on June 24, 2017 in Chicago. Credit: Getty Images / Jonathan Daniel

The Islanders did not factor into the market for the top unrestricted free-agent defensemen, aside from watching their own Calvin de Haan agree to a four-year, $18.2-million deal with the Hurricanes on Tuesday.

John Carlson stayed with the Capitals. Mike Green stayed with the Red Wings. The Blue Jackets lost Jack Johnson to the Penguins and Ian Cole to the Avalanche. John Moore left the Devils for the Bruins.

As for the trade market, while the Senators appear ready to deal two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, the Islanders are not believed to be a likely landing spot.

But since the free-agent market opened on Sunday, even as new Islanders president Lou Lamoriello has spent his time stocking the roster with bottom-six forwards by signing UFAs Tom Kuhnhackl, Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula and re-acquiring fan favorite Matt Martin, plus signing a potential No. 1 goalie in Robin Lehner, he surely must be thinking about improvements to his defense corps.

The Islanders allowed an NHL-high 293 goals last season, and even with de Haan’s departure, they have six defensemen still on the roster.

Lamoriello brought back Thomas Hickey, 29, with a four-year, $10-million deal. Johnny Boychuk, 34, has four seasons left on a seven-year, $42-million deal. Nick Leddy, 27, who has been Boychuk’s top-pair partner, has four seasons to go on a seven-year, $38.5-million deal. Adam Pelech, 23, has three seasons remaining on a four-year, $6.4-million contract. Scott Mayfield, 25, is starting a five-year, $7.25-million extension.

Ryan Pulock, 23, who could move into a top-pair role after notching 10 goals and 22 assists in 68 games as a rookie, is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights, meaning he has little negotiation leverage.

Pulock, Mayfield and Boychuk are righthanded shots.

Even if Lamoriello does not swing a deal for a defenseman or two this offseason, there should be strong competition in training camp come September for spots in the Islanders’ top six.

Devon Toews, 24, a fourth-round pick in 2014; Sebastian Aho, 22, a fifth-round pick in 2017 who played 22 games for the Islanders last season, and Mitchell Vande Sompel, 21, a third-round pick in 2018 who turned pro last season and was an All-Star for Bridgeport (AHL), are potential candidates. All three are lefthanded shots.

Another intriguing possibility is Swiss-born Yannick Rathgeb, 22, a righthanded shot who agreed to a two-year, $2.75-million entry-level deal on April 6 after going undrafted.

Rathgeb’s poise and skating stood out during the Islanders’ prospect development camp last week in East Meadow. He has played the past three seasons in the Swiss-A League, compiling eight goals and 20 assists in 38 games for Fribourg-Gotteron HC last season.

Rathgeb is not a stranger to playing in North America, having played two seasons of junior hockey for Plymouth (OHL) from 2013-15.

Even if Lamoriello cannot pull off a megadeal for Karlsson, there still could be additional activity on the trade market this offseason.

After signing de Haan, the Hurricanes might look to move three-time All-Star Justin Faulk, 26, a righthanded shot who has two seasons remaining on his six-year, $29-million deal.

The Jets might consider trading Jacob Trouba, 24, also a righthanded shot, after his contract is settled. Trouba is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights after completing a two-year, $6-million deal.

The price for either would be steep, likely in draft choices, prospects and NHL-ready players.

New York Sports