Only Lou knows what Lou is going to do.
But what needs to be done to improve the Islanders is not necessarily a secret.
Which is why the Islanders, under the direction of new president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, are expected to be among the more active teams at the NHL Draft on Friday and Saturday at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Islanders have two picks in Friday night’s first round at Nos. 11 and 12 and eight picks total over the seven rounds.
“The draft, in of itself, is pretty defensemen heavy, which suits the Islanders,” said former Islanders goalie Kevin Weekes, now an analyst for the NHL Network. “It’s no secret their Achilles’ heel is their defense corps and the team’s ability to defend. For one thing, the draft should afford them the chance to get a few good defense prospects, if not a top one.”
But Lamoriello’s expected organizational makeover must go deeper than drafting some defense prospects. Lamoriello, who was the Devils president/GM from 1987 to 2015 and the Maple Leafs GM the past three seasons, was hired as the Islanders president of hockey operations on May 22. He relieved former GM Garth Snow and coach Doug Weight of their duties on June 5.
One, if not two, top-four defensemen are needed immediately for the NHL roster.
So is a No. 1 goalie, which is why, with two first-round picks, Lamoriello is expected to be active on the trade market as well.
“Lou understands the art of team building,” said analyst Pierre McGuire, part of the NBC Sports Network broadcasting team for the draft. “In this league today, because the shootout is so predominant and the power play is so important, goaltending matters more than ever.
“I think, for a long time, they overrated, internally, their defense,” McGuire added. “Now, they realize their defense is not as good as they rated. And, clearly, they didn’t have a grasp on their goaltending situation.”
Of the Islanders’ three goalies last season, both Jaroslav Halak and Christopher Gibson are unrestricted free agents and not expected to be re-signed, leaving Thomas Greiss as the lone returner.
Among goalies, the Capitals’ Philipp Grubauer and the Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard may be available via trade and the Blues’ Carter Hutton and the Hurricanes’ Cam Ward are set to be unrestricted free agents.
The Capitals’ John Carlson is the top defenseman possibly available via free agency, though his annual salary is expected to more than double from $3.97 million. But the imploding Senators may well trade two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson.
“It’ll be interesting to watch because it has a chance to be one of the more lively drafts in a while in terms of trades,” McGuire said.
As for the draft itself, the Islanders, at Nos. 11 and 12, are not likely to land the premier defense prospects. Swede Rasmus Dahlin is widely expected to go first overall to the Sabres and Canadian juniors Evan Bouchard and Noah Dobson, Michigan’s Quinn Hughes and Swede Adam Boqvist all have been projected as potential top-10 selections.
Ty Smith, playing junior hockey for Spokane of the Western Hockey League, may be the best available defenseman by the time the Islanders select at No. 11, provided Lamoriello doesn’t trade up.
Lamoriello does have the flexibility to make moves with his two first-round selections and two more picks in the second round at Nos. 41 and 43. The Islanders also have picks in rounds three (No. 72), four (No. 103), five (No. 134) and seven (No. 196).
Which should allow Lou to do Lou stuff.