It’s almost difficult to comprehend that New York Islanders’ general manager Lou Lamoriello has been with the team for three seasons, albeit two severely shortened ones. He’s shown his savviness with the Islanders during his time on Long Island, leading to back-to-back Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Awards in 2019-20 and 2020-21. With much of the Islanders’ current offseason shrouded in secrecy, we’re looking back at Lamoriello’s top three moves from the summer of 2018 to the present day and an honorable mention.
Honorable Mention: Old Friends
An honorable mention to a move that resulted in a pair of players coming to the Islanders during the 2020-21 season with close ties to Lamoriello. Travis Zajac and, perhaps more importantly, Kyle Palmieri joined the Islanders in April, adding much-needed depth and scoring touch to a team without captain Anders Lee and an inconsistent forward group.
“I know what they bring on the ice. I also know who they are as people and how well they’ll fit in the locker room here. Chemistry is extremely important to me, but their experience, their talents, their competitiveness, especially in this division, knowing what they have to go through, to me, is an excitement from our end of it in management, coaching and so forth.”– Lou Lamoriello
This familiarity didn’t help their immediate transition to the Island, as both struggled to find their way early on. But as the regular season ended and the playoffs began, both players found a way to contribute given their respective roles. Palmieri helped the Islanders get past the Boston Bruins during the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and led the team with seven goals through the first 12 games heading into the Conference Final.
Pageau was acquired – and signed – at a time when the Islanders’ third line was a black hole and the team needed to solidify themselves down the middle. No one seemed to stick in that role, whether the team was winning or not. Queue Lamoriello, coming in with a fairly under-the-radar move, and the team suddenly looked a little more dangerous, though it did take until the bubble for Pageau to find his game with the Islanders.
The deal with the Ottawa Senators included a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, a second-round pick in the 2020 draft, and a conditional third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. He later signed a six-year, $30 million extension, a welcome sign for Islander fans. The signing not only showed players were beginning to think of Long Island as a destination but continued to give us insight into the type of players Lamoriello was seeking for his lineup. And he was right; it was evident during the 2020 playoff bubble that Pageau fit right in.
Despite his slow start, he is now a mainstay on special teams and has been thrown up and down the lineup. He’s also shown he can play with a wide cast of players, from younger players to veterans with varying abilities and skillsets. My colleague and fellow co-host of the Nassaumen Hockey Podcast, James Nichols, said it best in his one-year review of Pageau joining the Islanders.
“He fit the scrappy, hard-working mold the team identified with. Forechecking and causing turnovers, Pageau was excellent at getting the puck out of his own zone and into the offensive zone. He lit the lamp eight times at even strength and added three assists, and his 55.78 expected goals-for percentage ranked fourth-best among Islanders forwards, behind only Mat Barzal, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle.”– James Nichols
With back-to-back Conference Final appearances since his arrival, Pageau continues to prove his worth to the Islanders season after season. He plays “Islander hockey” and it’s clear he’s part of the reason for the team’s recent success.
As of August 2021, this is Lamoriello’s latest deal. With radio silence on all channels, Lamoriello dropped a bomb on Islanders’ fans on August 6, avoiding arbitration for one of the league’s top shutdown defenseman. Adam Pelech is one of the three homegrown defensemen on the roster and has become an important part of the Islanders’ present and future.
Pelech began getting national attention during and after this past season, finishing the 2020-21 campaign 17th in Norris Trophy voting. He’s not flashy, though those who watch the Islanders night in and night out have started to see his ability to handle the puck and get out of trouble grow exponentially over the last season or so.
As we discussed with Pageau, it’s clear players are beginning to see a bright future with the Islanders, and surely the players who have been there during their transition see it the best, including Pelech. “This is where I want to be,” Pelech said after signing his deal worth $46 million over eight years. “I couldn’t be happier with the term. I think all the guys feel the same way. They know something special is going on here.” His team-friendly deal will also help Lamoriello continue to keep the core of the team together.
What is there left to say about a head coach that helped change the trajectory of the Islanders? Shortly before losing John Tavares to the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agency, Lamoriello brought in Barry Trotz, fresh off of a Stanley Cup victory with the Washington Capitals. A surprise to many Islander fans during a difficult period for the team, Trotz’s time on Long Island has brought legitimacy back to a team thought to have been lost following the loss of their captain. However, coupled with Lamoriello, the franchise built a strong culture, brought in structure, and has been a true contender over the last two seasons.
“Lou’s won a few a Cups, and I think his knowledge over the time he’s been in the League, he’s a learned guy and he has seen a number of things. I love talking with Lou. We talk daily, and he understands building a roster. There will Player A and Player B, and the values that a lot of people might put on a certain player because it’s the sexy thing to do. He understands the intrinsic value of a player in tough games and in the locker room and as a teammate and as a pro, all the stuff that you don’t put a lot of numbers to. Everything that he does is very thorough and has substance to it.”– Barry Trotz
It’s clear Lamoriello and Trotz share the same vision for the team and can communicate the team’s needs effectively to one another for the franchise to continue its upward trend.
While these are the best Lamoriello moves to date, perhaps there are better transactions yet to come. As many fans are well aware, all we have to go off of at this point is rumors and projections. But, as we’ve seen with these four moves, it’s clear Lamoriello is capable of taking this team to the next level, even if we don’t fully understand the reason for the move when it’s first made.
Want more Islanders content? Check out the Nassaumen Hockey Podcast, hosted by The Hockey Writers authors James Nichols and Jon Zella. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts!
Jon Zella is a 31-year-old, Long Island native currently living in Syracuse, NY. Outside of hockey, he enjoys motorcycles, beer, coffee, and his dog Olive.