Lou Lamoriello and the New York Islanders forfeited their first-round selection on July 7, trading it to the Montreal Canadiens for 22-year-old defenseman Alexander Romanov. The lefty blueliner will slide in next to Noah Dobson on the second pair, filling the largest hole on their roster. Romanov was not on trade boards for a multitude of reasons, mainly because of his age and budget-friendly salary hit on a rebuilding team in Montreal. The Canadiens parted ways with the 2018 second-round pick and then flipped the 13th-overall selection to the Chicago Blackhawks for Kirby Dach. While he did not initially come to mind as the player to fill this large of a hole on the roster, Romanov was absolutely the right choice given the trade price, cap price, and win-now mentality.
Romanov is a restricted free agent without a contract for next season, but he has not accrued the minimum number of professional seasons to be eligible for an offer sheet. Therefore, he will be an Islander next year but the price and term are currently undetermined. For all of these reasons, the Islanders got their choice right when filling their hole on left defense, especially when one considers these other options they had to fill the role.
Former New York Rangers captain and two-time Cup winner Ryan McDonagh was traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Nashville Predators a few days before the draft in exchange for Philippe Myers and prospect Grant Mismash. This move got the Lightning underneath the cap ceiling with room to potentially re-sign forward Ondrej Palat. McDonagh heads to join Roman Josi and Mattias Ekholm on the back end in Nashville, leaving this to be his lasting memory for Islander fans.
As for the Islanders’ role in all of this, McDonagh is still a great defenseman. He is the lefty they needed with the experience that they yearned for with Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene. However, he can still play at a high level. On paper, this was a great fit, but he is under contract for four more seasons at $6.75 million. The Islanders only have a shade over $11 million in cap space to operate with in free agency and Dobson needs a new contract. They needed to get younger, which McDonagh would not provide, and stay cheap, which certainly was not possible with him. While the trade price was reasonable, all of the other logistics point to this not being a good fit long term. As such, Romanov over McDonagh was the right choice for Lamoriello and the Islanders.
Vince Dunn was a name that circulated on trade boards before the draft, but he remains with the Seattle Kraken for now. He was the selection in the expansion draft from the St. Louis Blues and has one year remaining on his deal at $4 million. He is also a restricted free agent (RFA) after next season. The money made sense here for the Islanders — and a lot of teams — so there has to be a reason why he was not traded. Logic says that the Kraken were asking a lot in exchange for him.
There were reports from the expansion draft that Ron Francis and crew were asking for too much in expansion-related trades, which led to none being made that night. They also have a very bleak prospect pool and have looked for a large number of draft picks. New York would also have to re-sign Dunn next season or trade him back out the door for pennies on the dollar. It appears that he will remain in Seattle for the 2022-23 season, as they could not find a trade partner at the draft.
If Jakob Chychrun eventually gets traded from the Arizona Coyotes to a contending team, it will be an absolute blockbuster. For that reason, the Islanders were right to stay away. New York’s farm system is not considered to be among the top of the league and considering his age, $4.6 million cap hit, and three seasons left on his contract, he will likely command at least two first-round picks. Considering the talent at the top of the draft next year, no team will be interested in selling a potential Conor Bedard lottery ticket, which is part of the reason why he did not move. The hope for the Islanders is that they are nowhere close to the Bedard sweepstakes, but considering how last season went, it is far too risky to trade that pick away just yet.
After this season, Chychrun will be able to submit a 10-team no-trade list to Arizona as part of the no-movement clause on his contract, so it stands to reason that they will be shopping him hard before the trade deadline. This is exactly the kind of move that can kickstart a rebuild as we saw with the Blackhawks trading Brandon Hagel at the deadline, but the Islanders should not bite on doing this themselves. While Chychrun would fill the biggest hole on the roster, he would be far too expensive in trade terms, potentially forcing Robin Salo or Samuel Bolduc out the door as well as two first-rounders. The Florida Panthers are a team I could see trading for the Sunshine State native, but the Islanders have many more holes to fill and were smart to forgo the chance at acquiring him.
Brenden Dillon is the kind of player that Lou Lamoriello would stereotypically attack: an older player who has been to a Stanley Cup making a little too much money and filling a spot of need. Those ways have been shoved to the side for the time being. He was traded from the Washington Capitals to the Winnipeg Jets last offseason for two second-round picks, which at the time was seen as a great move by the Jets. Dillon, like the rest of the Winnipeg squad, had a tough season last year and they are looking to move on from him as they begin to retool under new head coach Rick Bowness.
Dillon is making $3.9 million for the next two seasons at the age of 31, a decided disadvantage when compared to Romanov’s situation. His best days were left behind in San Jose but Winnipeg will try and move him for the same price they traded for him last year. The Islanders were smart to steer away here, as Romanov has a much higher ceiling than Dillon.
The initial reaction was a lot of confusion from Islanders fans, but after taking a few days to digest it, the move makes a lot of sense, as Romanov is young, cheap, and fills the Islanders’ biggest need on defense. The relationship between Dobson and Romanov will likely be key to the Islanders’ success in 2022-23.
My name is Chris Hennessy, welcome to my page! I am a recent graduate of Fordham University and WFUV where I covered the Islanders for the 2019-20 and 2021-22 seasons. The experience of being in the Coliseum and UBS ignited my love for storytelling, especially about my favorite team.