MONTREAL — Lou Lamoriello has plenty to address this offseason, work that extends well past this week’s NHL Draft.
The Islanders president and general manager spoke of trying to make “hockey trades” after last season ended with the team’s first playoff miss since 2018, partly a factor in Barry Trotz being fired as coach and replaced with the promotion of Lane Lambert from associate coach. Improving through free agency also likely will be part of the plan, if possible.
The draft’s first round will be Thursday night at Bell Centre with rounds two through seven being conducted on Friday afternoon. The NHL GMs will formally meet in town beforehand on Wednesday and continue to exchange ideas throughout the two-day draft. The Isles have the No. 13 pick overall, and five picks in total.
The Islanders need at least one puck-moving defenseman. They need a top-six wing who can be a prolific scorer. And Lamoriello likely needs to shed salary to revamp his roster.
The free-agent market opens on July 13 at noon.
A prime target should be Johnny Gaudreau if the prolific scorer — free agency's marquee forward — does not re-sign with the Flames.
The 28-year-old from Salem, New Jersey, set career highs last season with 40 goals and 75 assists for 115 points as he played 82 games for the second time in his career.
He completed a six-year, $40.5 million deal and only the Flames can offer him an eight-year contract. Attracting him back East likely would cost the Islanders around $9 million annually over seven seasons. Gaudreau turns 29 on Aug. 13, so the bulk of Gaudreau’s new-contract seasons will be on the other side of 30.
An aging roster is already one of the Islanders’ issues, but Gaudreau’s goal-scoring and playmaking as a top-line left wing are sorely needed.
But Lamoriello will have to clear out salary to afford that type of deal.
The Islanders have approximately $12 million in space under the $82.5 million salary cap for 2022-23 — up $1 million from last season — and 13 forwards, three defensemen and two goalies from last season’s roster under contract.
However, emerging star defenseman Noah Dobson, 22, is a restricted free agent — albeit without arbitration rights — after setting career highs with 13 goals and 38 assists in 80 games as he completed his three-year, $4.4 million entry-level deal. Regardless of whether Dobson gets a longer-term deal or another two- or three-year contract, he has earned a significant raise.
Presumptive top-line center Mathew Barzal is entering the final season of his three-year, $21 million deal and will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. So, significant long-term cap space must be allocated for Barzal as well.
Which is why Lamoriello, while looking to make “hockey trades” — talent for talent deals — must also likely consider how he can shed salary.
Goalie Semyon Varlamov, who has one season left on his deal with a cap hit of $5 million, would certainly have interest on the trade market. Ilya Sorokin has shown he can lead the Islanders as a No. 1 goalie, but Lamoriello was reluctant to break up the tandem last season as both he and Trotz believed in having two quality netminders. Lambert surely has the same philosophy.
Josh Bailey has two seasons left with a $5 million cap hit, and Smithtown’s Kyle Palmieri has three seasons left at $5 million and both underperformed last season. Either might be a trade or buyout candidate.
Anthony Beauvillier has two seasons left at $4.15 million and could attract trade interest.
Lamoriello also is likely to be asked about sniper Oliver Wahlstrom, defense prospects Robin Salo and Samuel Bolduc and Aatu Raty, picked No. 52 last year, in any trade talks.
Lambert's new assistants
Doug Houda and Brian Wiseman were named assistant coaches by the Islanders on Tuesday.
Houda, who played for the Isles from 1996 to 1998, spent the past six seasons as an assistant coach with the Detroit Wings after 10 years and a 2011 Stanley Cup win as an assistant with the Boston Bruins.
Wiseman was an assistant coach for the Edmonton Oilers for three seasons after spending eight seasons in the same position at the University of Michigan. He was drafted by the Rangers in the 12th round in 1991.