Islanders’ Lamoriello Breaks Summer Silence

After months of silence, New York Islanders’ general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello finally spoke to the media on Monday afternoon following the news of three signings. Restricted free agents Noah Dobson (three years at $4 million), Kieffer Bellows (one year at $1.2 million), and Alexander Romanov (three years at $2.5 million) all had their contracts made public, though outside of the terms, was all but accounted for in the eyes of many. In addition to those announcements, he talked about his team heading into the 2022-23 season as well as a summer in which the Islanders made no unrestricted free agent (UFA) signings.

Islanders’ Lamoriello Doubles Down

With no moves to speak of, Lamoriello doubled down on his roster during Monday’s press availability, one for which he had some harsh words earlier this year. Despite that, and the additional calls for “hockey trades” and mentioning the need to improve the roster, particularly on offense, the Islanders are running it back with the same group.

But Lamoriello prepared fans for this moment months ago, saying “I think what we have to do is get improvement out of our younger players and also a more complete year out of some of our veterans than we did this year,” he said during a conference call in May. It set him up nicely for Monday’s comments, which didn’t surprise Islander fans or those covering the team.

Ultimately, the reasoning – or excuse – came down to what he saw as a poor return on investment, despite missing an opportunity to retrieve assets of any kind at the 2022 Trade Deadline. “We looked at many different options,” Lamoriello said on Monday. “Unfortunately, the options we looked at to make hockey trades, we would have not gotten the return for what we would have had to give up, in my opinion, to make us a better team.”

Related: Islanders Lamoriello to Blame for Offseason Failures

He went on to say that there was no disappointment with the roster and, if he did feel that way, he would have made “drastic changes” to the lineup. This was all a difficult pill to swallow following what many considered to be a pivotal offseason for the Islanders after a disappointing 2021-22 campaign. However you feel about the lack of movement this summer, it appears the Islanders’ roster is set for 2022-23.

Evaluating the Islanders’ 2022-23 Roster

It’s completely valid to see this summer as a failure for the Islanders, especially Lamoriello. I certainly didn’t hold back in a recent piece, but given that the Islanders’ roster is set for 2022-23, it’s probably time to step back from the ledge and evaluate what they have.

In net, the Islanders have what some fans voted as the best goalie tandem in the league through JFresh Hockey. That’s a pretty good start. Goalies can steal a team games, and despite Semyon Varlamov’s 10-17-2 record and the need for him to bounce back this season, he kept the Islanders in a lot of games despite the losses. With the defense considerably younger with the departures of Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene coupled with the addition of Romanov and, presumably, Robin Salo, that feels like a huge improvement already. If Romanov can unlock Dobson’s offense and be the anchor on that pair, the defense is in good shape.

The lack of an addition to the offense aside, and this may not go over well – but a group that got the team within two goals of the Stanley Cup Final in 2021 is at least a good start. While it’s fair to point out that the forwards are now another year older, it’s possible they can pick up where they left off at the end of last season. Kyle Palmieri and J.G. Pageau seemed to finally click next to one another following the NHL All-Star Game, and Zach Parise is a nice complement to that line; Anders Lee – who will be fully healthy after recovering from an injury – and Brock Nelson rekindled their chemistry, pushing the latter near the 40-goal mark last season; and the sky is the limit for youngster Oliver Wahlstrom and, to some extend, Anthony Beauvillier.

Further, and perhaps the biggest wildcard heading into the 2022-23 season, is if new head coach Lane Lambert can truly unlock Mathew Barzal’s offensive potential. They may also be able to add at the trade deadline if they’re in a playoff position and need a jolt, something Lamoriello hasn’t been afraid to do during his time with the Islanders adding Palmieri and Pageau midseason.

It’s been a difficult offseason, but with the worst now behind us, perhaps fans can move on and look ahead. Lamoriello has doubled down on his roster and despite the lack of noticeable improvements, a veteran group that had a good second half has the possibility of making the playoffs at the end of next season. It’ll all depend on if this roster can step up, and we’ll only find out if they can do that when the puck drops this fall.

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