Lou Lamoriello not letting the Islanders get ahead of themselves

The Islanders are looking like a lock for a third consecutive postseason appearance. Barring an unforeseen collapse in the next 14 games, the Isles should find themselves in a top-three spot in the highly-competitive MassMutual East Division. But looking beyond the games that remaining, there’s an expectation that the group g.m. Lou Lamoriello has assembled will be one of the final four, if not the last two teams remaining for the Stanley Cup.

The Isles’ GM though has a different way of looking at those things. And why not? He’s had tremendous success — three Stanley Cups, his organization having a decade long run of postseason berths — and been in this league long enough to not start thinking about the future and to just focus on the present. That’s how he wants his team to go about things following an eventful trade deadline.

“The only thing on our mind is getting ready to play two days from now and the next game,” Lamoriello said while doing a spot on NHL Network Radio yesterday afternoon. “You never go beyond that. It’s all about trying to get your team settled in right now in the reference to the new players that are here. That’s Barry (Trotz) and the coaching staff’s job to get those pieces into place that is the best for us.”

Those pieces Lamoriello was speaking of are Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac and Braydon Coburn. Palmieri and Zajac have already played in all three games since their arrival last Thursday, but Trotz has tweaked where he inserted them in the lineup. In the Isles’ OT win over the Rangers Sunday, Trotz gave Zajac first line duties with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle; Palmieri was placed on a line with J.G. Pageau and rookie Oliver Wahlstrom, which was the team’s most dangerous unit offensively all evening.

Even with their big time moves, it’s not a shock  there’s no such approach of looking ahead for this Islander squad. Refraining from that has been an underlying key to their success under the Trotz-Lamoriello regime. It’s always been about the task at hand. That next task now being a two-gamer with the Boston Bruins, who are currently holding on to the fourth and final playoff spot in the East while the Rangers are nipping at their heels.

“We just worry about one day at a time, Lamoriello added during the interview. “Never worry about the end result. If we do things right, it has a way of taking care of itself.”

The Islanders have been doing things right for a long time now and they’ve been rewarded for it. And course, bringing a Cup back to Long Island is the ultimate reward in the end. While the latter is what the fans might be thinking about now, it’s the farthest thing on the mind of the team itself and the general manager.

Lamoriello was asked about several other topics during his 15-plus minutes on air. In particular, he heaped a ton of praise on Brock Nelson. As many remember, Nelson seemed like a lost cause before he and Trotz’s arrival. Since then, he’s been a revelation.

“Brock has consistently gotten better since the day I got here,” Lamoriello said when asked about the 30-year-old center’s game of late. “He gets all the hard matchups, and despite that he leads us in goals. He still has a certain amount he can grow and get better.”

The fourth line also came up in the conversation with Lamoriello.

“They all bring something different. When they’re going, they’re the spark plug. They drive the engine.”

This season might be trio’s final act together with Casey Cizikas being an unrestricted free agent. That aside, the Islanders’ g.m. continues to marvel at how great they are.

The Islanders are “All In” with their latest move

All In.

That was the feeling that took over the blue and orange cult of fans that make up Islanders Country just before 8PM last night, when news broke that the team had acquired forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for two picks — a 2021 first-rounder, 2022 conditional fourth-rounder — and minor leaguers Mason Jobst and A.J. Greer. And with that one move the Isles made their intentions clear to the rest of the division and the league for that matter: they believe they can win a Stanley Cup.

Anticipation had been building that g.m. Lou Lamoriello was going to strike sometime before the trade deadline next Monday. Even prior to captain Anders Lee going down with a season-ending injury last month, there was plenty of chatter the Isles would be buyers. Lee’s setback only increased that thinking, as did his $7M cap hit which now became available for the organization to use. It seemed like something was afoot too from the outside when the organization’s top targets, Palmieri and Buffalo’s Taylor Hall, were being sat out by their respective teams over the past few games. Well, Lamoriello chose what he believed to be the better package, getting a two-for-one special.

The way the team responded to [Lee’s injury] and the way they came together, certainly played a role in whatever I could do to get them some support and some help,” Lamoriello said to the media following the deal. “Certainly a first round pick is what it is. I’m extremely excited about the young players we have and how they’ve come along and how they are going to gain experience through this process. I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all making the decision, especially when you’re able to acquire the two players that we did in Kyle and Travis.”

Palmieri and Zajac both bring something different to the table that won’t only help the Islanders down the stretch but in what they hope to be another long postseason run. The 30-year-old Smithtown, Long Island native brings his goal-scoring prowess to an already well-balanced attack. As my friend and colleague James Nichols pointed out this morning, Palmieri has scored 140 goals since the 2015-16 season & is scoring at a 41-point pace in 2020-21(19 goals, 22 assists). His teammate Zajac bolsters an already formidable bottom-six, is a stout penalty killer and brings plenty of veteran and championship experience. Zajac was on the Lamoriello-led Devils squad that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.

He also waived his full no-move clause for the trade to go down yesterday.

That’s a testament to how the Islanders are viewed as a franchise now, one that keeps trending in the right direction and is going for it. “It’s a bolt of energy for sure,” Zajac said. “You’re excited to come in this situation and coming to a team that just does things the right way. They know how to win.”

The Islanders have been in “win-now” mode since Lamoriello arrived three years ago. He struck out the first time when he went for Mark Stone. Last year, he made his mark to get his club reinforcements — Andy Greene and J.G. Pageau — in the wake of devastating injuries. We all saw how those deals have played out. They’ve been a rousing success. But this time, he made moves to make a statement. That’s what Palmieri and Zajac are.

Lamoriello believes this group is good enough to win a Cup this year. He might not be done either.

One thing is certain, winning at all cost is the expectation now for the Isles. The moment was seized to get better and from here on forward this team is all-in on getting to the promise land.

 

Islanders’ GM Lou Lamoriello has high expectations for Mathew Barzal this season

The Islanders’ season is less than a week old, but that hasn’t kept g.m. Lou Lamoriello from having a few things to say about his club’s start.

Lamoriello did a radio spot with Sirius NHL Radio yesterday after the Isles’ 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins Monday night. It was a very candid and open interview, probably some would say the most open the Islanders general manager has been to date.

One of the main topics discussed was Mathew Barzal and Lou’s expectations for him in this shortened season.

“What we expect from Mat is to do the things that god has given him with his talent,” Lamoriello said.

Barzal is now in his fifth season in the NHL and he’s just agreed to a three-year, $7M deal on January 9th. That contract put him with captain Anders Lee as the highest-paid player on the team. He’s also considered the Islanders’ best player from an offensive standpoint; the 23-year-old has led the team in points three straight seasons.

Lamoriello though is looking for more from his stud center beyond the scoresheet.

“Not worry about scoring, but just worrying about both ends of the ice,” he said. “He has worked at that, been outstanding and made that commitment. “He wants to be an Islander. He said that loud and clear. He’s been great. I have nothing but good things to say about him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone with better edges. He’s certainly an integral part of this team.”

It’s true that Barzal has gotten better in some of those areas, but he still hasn’t reached that echelon where he’s one of the more consistent two-way centers in the sport. That’s expected to change this year. Lou knows it. He knows it.

Barzal even made it a sticking point after signing his new deal that consistency was going to be key for him moving forward.

And it goes hand-and-hand with what the Isles are trying to accomplish: Winning a Stanley Cup.

The Isles’ bread-and-butter under Lamoriello since he arrived in 2018, and furthermore Barry Trotz, has been a defense-first mentality. Barzal plays a key part in that. It’s easy to see why Lamoriello is so keen on him being laser-focused at improving with and without the puck  as opposed to him just leaning more towards offense, which most fans have been clamoring to see for a while now.

Expectations coming into this season were already sky high for Barzal. The fact that Lamoriello came out and said what he likes to see from him was different and enlightening.

You usually don’t hear the general manager talk expectations about their star players, let alone Lou Lamoriello. Obviously though he sees the untapped potential Barzal has.

And he hopes that potential comes out in droves this year not only offensively but defensively.

Lamoriello also had some high praise for the defensive corps he and the coaching staff assembled this year. What he said about the duo of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech really drove home how great they’ve become.

“I never realized what their abilities were. Great human beings, great teammates, he said. “They stay within their limits and playing together they’ve make each other better. They’ve done a great job.”

Lamoriello also was emphatic about Nick Leddy and how he feels he’s playing his best hockey since he took over the organization. He also was quick to point out Noah Dobson and how he thinks he will progress.

“Noah Dobson has outstanding potential. We feel he’s going to get better and better.”

Speaking of Pulock, it seems he and the rest of the guys in the room are more than comfortable continuing to play the underdog role despite two straight postseason appearances and making the Eastern Conference finals this past summer.

“I think we as a group are kind of fine with that underdog mentality and trying to prove people wrong,” he said chatting on NHL Network yesterday. We’ve looked at it the past couple of years and had success that way. We’re gonna keep building that way.”

Pulock also showed off his stitched ear from the shot he took up high on Saturday, all 18 of them. That’s a hockey guy.

 

Islanders’ Lou Lamoriello’s GM ranking is pretty fair

The list of great general managers in the National Hockey League nowadays are few are far between. For the Islanders’ Lou Lamoriello, the argument can be made he should rank near or at the top of that select list.

NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk seems to feel the same way.

Yesterday the website did its usual weekly NHL power rankings and slotted Lamoriello as the sixth-best general manager in the league. Ahead of him was Boston’s Don Sweeney, Tampa Bay’s Julien BriseBois, St. Louis’s Doug Armstrong, Detroit’s Steve Yzerman and Colorado’s Joe Sakic.

The argument made by PHT’s Adam Gretz for putting the Islanders’ g.m. at six — in the category of “Established names and strong track records” — was Lamoriello was the brains behind a mini-dynasty in New Jersey, which will always get him recognition. Adding to that, he’s not made earth-shatering moves in his time with the Isles other than Jean-Gabriel Pageau, but that the stability and credibility he brought to the franchise — one that had none before he arrived — can’t be understated.

Now there are some that will argue that Lamoriello should probably be higher on the list (the case could be made for him to be ahead of Yzerman whose Red Wings club is still rebuilding and is coming off just an awful 2019-20 campaign). But six is a pretty solid spot for the 78-year-old.

Lamoriello as it stands is the reigning Jim Gregory Award winner, the award handed out annually to the top NHL general manager as voted by a 41-member panel which includes all 31 teams GMs, five league executives and five media members.

Under his watch, the Islanders are coming off their first Conference finals appearance in 27 years and a second consecutive postseason appearance. He was the reason behind the hiring of Barry Trotz, arguably the best coach in the league. The acquisitions he made at the trade deadline last season, Pageau (mentioned earlier) and veteran d-man Andy Greene were instrumental in the Isles making their run. Lou was able to finally get goalie Ilya Sorokin to come to North America and sign with the organization in the summer while also re-upping franchise d-man Ryan Pulock to a team-friendly deal just a few weeks back.

And if all goes according to plan, he will have star center Mathew Barzal, forward Matt Martin, Greene and goalie Cory Schneider all signed before the season begins.

Lamoriello has also lost some key pieces during his Islander tenure which could have had him in the top-five. Letting goaltender Robin Lehner walk prior to last season; having to deal away 26-year-old d-man Devon Toews to Colorado because of salary cap trouble earlier this offseason. Although he reacquired two second-round picks in the swap, having to let go of a young d-man of Toews’ potential hurts. Striking out on Artemi Panarin before this past year also was a missed opportunity.

In reality though, Lamoriello is still pretty early into his foray with the Islanders. Granted this will be his third season running the club, it’s not usually till that specific year until it’s clear where a franchise is heading under that current general manager.

The Isles have been trending in the right direction.

Right now the team’s window to compete for a Stanley Cup is open and the pieces are in place for long term success. With Lamoriello running things, the good times should continue.

A lot of that will hinge on him getting Barzal locked up and finding him that elusive winger to play alongside him.

Barzal is the centerpiece and who the club has been building around.

It doesn’t seem Lamoriello will be stepping down anytime soon so we could see him move up the ranks of this list soon. Where he stands right now seems like the right spot based on his resume and the work he’s done with the Islanders up until this point.

Do you agree?

The Islanders and Ryan Pulock both win big with new deal

Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders

The Islanders had one of their two huge off offseason dominos fall today.

The team and d-man Ryan Pulock agreed to a new two-year deal avoiding arbitration that was set to take place later this week. The news was first reported by Sportsnet’s Eliiotte Friedman.

Pulock’s deal will have him making $5M AAV.

“I’m obviously really excited to be back for two more years,” Pulock said on a conference call with reporters. “This team has come a long way and the future is bright.”

This transaction comes a few weeks after RFA Devon Toews was dealt from the team to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for two second-round picks. Now all that remains for g.m. Lou Lamoriello and Co. is to get a deal done with star forward Mathew Barzal, which could hopefully come before the start of the regular season.

But for the team and the 26-year-old Pulock, this contract comes out as a huge victory for both sides.

“From our standpoint, we just wanted to make something work.. really excited that we were able to do that,” Pulock said.

Looking at the Islanders’ point of view, they didn’t have to break the bank for one of their two top-pairing defenseman. Some of that can be contributed to the unknown of the COVID-19 restrictions that teams may still be facing in the very near future.

Still, the value the Isles are getting here is tremendous.

It allows them to keep one of their key core players at a very affordable price, let alone their most important offensive d-man. In addition, the Isles received some extra wiggle room to get their cap situation worked out.

Something to also keep in mind is by the time this contract ends, Pulock will still only be 28 — just entering his prime for a player in the NHL — and the Islanders will have had Johnny Boychuk Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey and Leo Komarov’s contracts all come off the books. This means the organization will most likely have the opportunity to get Pulock signed to a long-term deal as opposed to his previous deals, both of whom were bridge deals.

That last graf also plays into how Pulock is a big winner — he will get the chance to add even more to his value over the next two seasons, just in time for when the Isles can spend.

And things in a sense have already trended that direction from the player’s part.

Pulock has continued to get better defensively under head coach Barry Trotz and the structure he employs. His offensive production too has seen an uptick each season since he first joined the NHL four years ago. And it easy to tell he was going to be one of Lamoriello’s biggest priorities when the offseason began, and this agreement truly shows how much he meant to the success of the team. The Isles made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 27 years and he played an instrumental role, leading the team in ice-time and tying for the most points (10) by a d-man with the aforementioned Toews.

You could say this is another chance for Pulock to prove himself to be worthy of elite status. He’s not on that level just yet, but has shown flashes of being in that conversation. He betting on himself again — as he’s done previously — could finally bring out that next level in his game.

Last, the deal personifies how much the organization likes Pulock and how much faith they have in him.

The Islanders could have easily let Pulock play out the final year of his previous deal or even traded him for the simple fact they are loaded on the backend and the possible haul they could have received in return. Clearly though, they believe the Dauphin, MB native is one of the pieces to their championship puzzle and he fits the mold of what they want from a number one/two blue liner.

That says a lot and could help in further negotiations down the line.

Getting Pulock re-upped was critical for the the Islanders in more ways than one.

He was one of the bigger priorities to be checked off, and now that it’s done, he and the team can revel in what was a fantastic move for both parties. Most of the time in contract talks between the player and the team, one is usually comes out looking stronger than the other.

But this time, the Islanders and Pulock were both on the winning sides of things.

 

This is it for Josh Ho-Sang and the Islanders, and just maybe he finally gets it

The New York Islanders are trying it one last time with Josh Ho-Sang.

Yesterday the organization and Ho-Sang, who was a restricted free agent, settled on a deal before the 24-year-old was set to go to arbitration Friday.

The deal was for $700K and 225K.

The agreement from both sides came as a shock to some especially after g.m. Lou Lamoriello’s comments about the situation last week. But as I pointed out a few weeks ago —when Ho-Sang was one of the RFA’s qualified by the Islanders — there still something there between the two parties.

The question that remains now is will Ho-Sang finally get it?

This might be his last chance at salvaging his pro career. For him to do so as a part of the Islanders would be quite the turnaround after the road the team and player have been down.

To say the relationship between Ho-Sang and the Islanders has been anything but rocky would be putting it nicely.

It began the moment the team drafted him in 2014.

Then Isles’ general manager at the time, Garth Snow, received criticism from pundits on Ho-Sang who was said to have been a possible top-5 pick if not for character issues. Ho-Sang then overslept on the first day of training camp in 2015 and was immediately sent back to juniors.

Even after he sparked the club at the end of the ‘16-‘17 season, Ho-Sang got sent back to the AHL early on the following season and wasn’t called back up. The maligned forward got another short stint up with the Isles two years ago, but only lasted ten games.

Last year seemed like it would be the final straw when the 24-year-old requested Isles g.m. Lou Lamoriello to trade him after he was the last forward cut before the regular season. Lamoriello told Ho-Sang to stay home while he tried to find a suitor, but to no avail. Ho-Sang eventually returned to the team, settling in Bridgeport in December after the Islanders lent prospect Oliver Wahlstrom to Team USA for the World Juniors.

There’s been other infractions along the way, but those are in the past.

Now, the ball is in Ho-Sang’s court.

The team has showed their faith in him. And as his agent Patrick Bedell noted yesterday, he’s ready to do anything to play for the Islanders this coming season.

“Josh is ready to give everything he has to earn a spot in the National Hockey League. This contract provides him with some financial security at the AHL level, but he intends to force his way into an NHL line-up,” Bedell told the New York Post’s Mollie Walker.

“We believe this contract best allows for that as well. There was interest from teams overseas, but again, at the end of the day, Josh’s focus is being a contributor for an NHL team. Conversations with the Islanders in furtherance of this deal were strong, and no matter how the upcoming season shakes out, we are focused on achieving our goals. Josh would like to thank the Islanders for believing in him.”

Just hearing those words are a very encouraging sign and a far cry from some of the things Ho-Sang has said in the past. Maybe now he does finally understand what it will take to be a regular in the NHL.

But actions speak louder than words.

He’s going to have to prove it to Lamoriello, Barry Trotz and the rest of the staff.

There are a lot of people who still believe he can be a big part of the Islanders moving forward and helping them continue their recent success. We all know how talented and skilled Ho-Sang is, and the proof is there that the team plays well with him around. It needs to translate even more now — if he does make the team — especially with the Isles coming off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance.

No other organization would stuck with Ho-Sang as long as the Islanders have. They believe he can be a difference maker.

That means something.

These next few months will tell if Josh Ho-Sang has any part in the future of the Islanders.

This is his final chance. He knows it. Everyone else does too.

Maybe he finally gets it now.

The Islanders are the perfect place to help Cory Schneider resurrect himself

There seems to be a common theme now when people think about the New York Islanders now — they’ve turned into a goalie factory.

Cory Schneider must see it too.

It’s probably the biggest reason why Schneider, who was bought out by the New Jersey Devils last Thursday, is soon expected to be the newest member of the Isles organization. The veteran goaltender is trying to resurrect his career following a rough couple of years in New Jersey.

At one point, Schneider was one of most reliable goaltenders in the league. He helped get the Devils to the postseason in 2018 and was between the pipes for the team’s only playoff win in the last eight years. But playing behind non-competitive teams, injuries and several demotions to the AHL all played a part in his downfall and led to him becoming a free agent for the first time in his career.

“Obviously it is up to me, you know,” the 34-year-old Schneider said while talking with Corey Masisak of The Athletic NYC.

Choosing the Isles might have been Schneider’s only choice. As reported by TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, his contract only has him making the league minimum $700K.

“I’ve got to go there and play well. It doesn’t just happen because Mitch Korn is there and they’re the Islanders. You have to go do it. If there is an environment that would be good for me as a goalie, I think that is it, so I’m excited.”

Schneider picking Long Island, he might have made the best decision possible for a litany of reasons. For one, he’ll get the opportunity to work with the best of the best.

Goaltending guru Mitch Korn and consultant Piero Greco have earned the reputation around the league as two of the best to not just turn goalies careers around but elevate them to new heights. Just look at what they did with Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss.

Lehner, who spent the 2018-19 season with learning from those two, became a top-5 goalie in the NHL under their and was a Vezina Trophy finalist. Lehner was just awarded a brand new long-term deal with Vegas. Greiss, now with Detroit after he signed over there over weekend, had the worst year of his career in 2017-18. Working with Korn and Greco, they fixed his game and he once again became one of the top 1A-1B guys in the sport.

Some of Semyon Varlamov’s success this past year too can also be contributed to Korn and Greco’s tutelage.

“Yeah, that was obviously another draw,” the Schneider added. “The style they play, the way they play the game. The coaching from Barry Trotz down to Mitch. I think, for a goalie, it is a great place to work on your game and just get back to basics, feel good and play well.”

Schneider mentions the Isles’ style, and he’s not wrong. The structure and emphasis on defense has been their most important key to success. And even though Schneider will most likely be spending his time down in the AHL, that style resonates throughout the organization. He won’t have to worry about facing 40 shots a night like he did with the Devils.

The Islanders also provide the environment which Schneider can thrive in. Trotz and Lamoriello have instilled a family-like atmosphere and that everything is about the team. Schneider is already recognized as one of the true good guys in the NHL and was a pro’s pro even during his struggles in recent years. He has the exact demeanor the organization prides itself on.

We don’t need to mention his relationship g.m. Lou Lamoriello and teammate Andy Greene — who is probably going to be back for next season — but Schneider being a Lou disciple only furthers why he can find success again.

Then there’s this: Winning.

Schneider wants to win. Who doesn’t? The Islanders can help him do that again after her hasn’t experienced much of it in past years. That success can translate into him extending his career and possibly have teams take a shot on him next offseason.

The last few years have really not gone Cory Schneider’s way. But now that has a chance to change.

Joining the Islanders allows him to do that.

It’s the perfect spot for him to resurrect his career and find his game once again.

 

The Noah Dobson era is officially here for the Islanders

New York Islanders, Noah Dobson

While the New York Islanders deal with the aftermath of the Devon Toews trade and wait for the impending move of veteran Johnny Boychuk, another era has officially gotten underway.

The Noah Dobson era.

Dobson, the 12th overall pick from the 2018 draft, has now earned his place as the next in line to be the centerpiece on the Islanders’ defense.

The highly-touted rookie spent all of last season with the Isles, in part due to the organization not wanting to send him back to juniors and the inability to have him play in the AHL because of age restriction. Dobson played in 34 games for the Islanders and tallied a goal and six assists. The 20-year-old also suited up in the Islanders’ last game of the playoffs, the 2-1 OT loss in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In that contest — his only appearance in the postseason — Dobson didn’t look out of place and showed right then and there he was ready for the challenge of being a top-four defenseman in the NHL.

Now he’ll get his chance to reward the organization’s faith in him. With Toews off to Colorado, Dobson is the one expected to step up in his place.

“We would not have made this move if the ice time that Devon received, we didn’t have the ability to put a player into that,” Lamoriello told reporters on Monday after the Toews deal. “And Noah Dobson, we feel, is certainly ready to take the next step so we’ll have to just wait and see.”

Not since Ryan Pulock, and the aforementioned Toews, has the franchise been so high on one of their blueliners. After all, Dobson was a top-15 pick and was one of the top defensive prospects in his draft class that included Rasmus Dahlin, Quinn Hughes, Evan Bouchard, and Adam Boqvist; out of those five, he, Hughes, Boqvist and Dahlin have had a significant impact on their clubs thus far. Add to that, his dominant junior career. The Summerside, PEI native became one of the premier defenders in his time in the QMJHL, received a ton of accolades, and won back-to-back Memorial Cups with Acadie-Bathurst and Rouyn-Noranda.

Dobson definitely has the capabilities of being elite at both ends of the ice. Who knows, maybe there’s a possible Norris Trophy down the road. Some experts did say when he was picked that Dobson could turn out to be just that good.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, we’ve only seen a small sample size of what he’s is truly capable of.

Despite that, his real arrival is coinciding with where the Isles are as an organization — on the cusp of something truly special.

The Islanders are coming off their second consecutive postseason appearance and their deepest playoff run in 27 years. They’re also in “win now” mode and on the verge of being a Stanley Cup contender for years to come. In addition, they have one of the best coaches in the league in Barry Trotz, a 25-year-old stud goalie who is their future in goal named Ilya Sorokin and one of the top defensive units in the league. Dobson becoming a major player of that core only provides even more excitement.

“Our back end is really, really good and Dobber is going to be a big part of the future,” Trotz said a few weeks back. “And the now, I guess, because we’ll be into the next season very shortly here. He’ll be a big part of it going forward.”

The start date for next season still hasn’t been announced, but when it does, Dobson will be the one to watch. Whether that means he’s a part of a third-pairing with Andy Greene — the two were the club’s best duo heading into the postseason bubble and Greene most likely being back with the organization based on Lamoriello’s words a few days ago — or slated in the top-four and helping on special teams, the spotlight will be on him.

Dobson is set to turn 21 next month. By then, he will officially no longer be a teen. Not only that, he’ll be the face of the future on the backend for the Islanders.

There are still changes coming for the Isles, but one big one has already taken shape. It’s Dobson and the beginning of his ascent in the organization.

His time is officially here.

 

The Islanders had no choice but to trade Devon Toews

New York Islanders, Devon Toews

The first few days of NHL Free Agency had been quiet for the New York Islanders. That is until yesterday.

In a shocking move, the Islanders traded 26-year old d-man Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for two second-round picks in 2021-22.

Toews, who was a restriction free agent after this past season, was set to for arbitration with the organization. General manager Lou Lamoriello made it clear to reporters this was not a move he wanted to make but that the current situation played a part in the transaction along with the Isles’ cap issues while still needing to get Ryan Pulock and Mathew Barzal signed to new deals.

“It certainly played a role, I’ll be straight forward on it, unfortunately,” Lamoriello said. “Combination of the player going to arbitration with the unknown and being able to acquire assets, which we’ve used in previous trades. It’s all encompassing.”

No one had the thought that Toews wasn’t going to be a major part of the organization’s future moving forward, including me. Just a year and a half ago, Toews was projected to be an elite presence on the Islanders’ defense for the future. When he got the call up to the team in December of 2018, Toews showed he was worth all the hype. Immediately he added another dynamic to a blue line that was still in the early stages of becoming one of the best in the league and one in the midst of a historic season. His strong play followed into this past year his first full season in the NHL where he notched 28 points in 68 games and a postseason where he tied for most points by an Isles defenseman.

Toews did slow down towards the tail end of the Islanders’ run to the Eastern Conference Finals. However. the B.C. native more than established himself as a sturdy top-four d-man.

Obviously that wasn’t enough. And as much as Toews being the sacrificial lamb was something no one envisioned, and Lamoriello making it clear last week his intentions were to try and keep this current core together, he basically had his hands tied. There are too many factors just not in the Islanders’ favor right now beyond the cap.

The Islanders need to do everything in their power to get Barzal signed. We’ve heard — and I was told this again yesterday as well — that Barzal could be looking for $10 million in a possible new deal. They also needed to recoup assets after basically sending most of them away at the deadline in the deals for Andy Greene and J.G. Pageau. The Marc Staal deal by the rival Rangers set the tone of the market when it came to dealing picks. And up until yesterday that market looked like it was going to be extremely difficult to navigate for the Islanders.

Now, they have something they can work with and it can possibly lead to them being able to trade a bigger contract out like Johnny Boychuk, which has been rumored now the past few days.

Something to also be taken into consideration with Toews being dealt is the talented prospect pool on defense the Islanders have right now and how much head coach Barry Trotz likes Nick Leddy and his game. Besides Dobson, they have Sebastian Aho, Samuel Bolduc, Bode Wilde, Parker Wotherspoon, Grant Hutton and Mitch Vande Sompel (those two signed new deals  yesterday and this morning); a few of those names could be with the big club soon too. Trotz called Leddy the Islanders’ best player in the postseason.

“We did give up a good player to acquire assets,” Lamoriello said. “It takes two to make any transaction. Devon was the individual involved — that’s the best way to put it. Not that he was a player targeted (by us to trade).”

Toews will do great things in Colorado. Especially, being a part of an already stacked team featuring Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Cale Makar, Sam Girard and Bowan Byram.

On the flip side, the time has come for Noah Dobson. The organization knows it and they have put their full faith in him as the one to replace Toews. “Noah Dobson, we feel, is certainly ready to take the next step so we’ll have to just wait and see,” said Lamoriello.

So, yeah, trading Toews came at a price. But a lot of aspects probably went into the decision.

It sucks to see him go but the Islanders were really stuck with no choice.

The Islanders emphasized one thing in their drafting this year

The wait was long enough for the New York Islanders to finally get in on the action of day 2 of the NHL Draft yesterday.

No seriously.

The Isles waited an excruciating four hours and 56 minutes before they made their first of five selections on the day at pick number 90. With that pick, they would go on to select 18-year-old Alexander Ljungkrantz (yep that last name is a handful).

Ljungkrantz, a product from Brynas Jr. of Sweden’s J20 SuperElit league, was ranked the No. 66-ranked European skater by NHL Central scouting coming into the draft.

More importantly, Ljungkrantz is a winger. By selecting him — and the other two forwards in the fourth and fifth rounds — the organization showed exactly what the emphasis was going to be as the rounds forged on, and it wasn’t just picking the best players available.

It was about building up the youth on the wings.

“We’re pleased [with our 2020 Draft Class],” GM Lou Lamoriello told reporters after the draft concluded. “We drafted three forwards, all of good size and all wingers.”

The Islanders’ brass has done a better job at shoring up the winger spot the last two drafts. But it still hasn’t felt like it’s been enough at times.

They do have Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows and the aforementioned Josh Ho-Sang — who received yet another qualifying offer from the organization on Monday — but those are the only three guys who have played in the NHL recently. Behind them, Simon Holmstrom, Arnaud Durandeau, Cole Coskey, Blade Jenkins and Anatoli Golyshev are all in the system. All seem like they are still a few years away from reaching the pros. That’s why it was important the team keep adding to that position.

The Isles’ current core has five wings who are age 26 and above, with three others currently being the exception — Anthony Beauvillier (23), Michael Dal Colle (24), Otto Koivula (20).

In today’s game which only continues to get younger and faster, that’s not going to cut it. And though the other two wingers they selected — Alex Jefferies at 121 and William Dufour with the 152nd pick — might be longer-term projects (both are also 18), it allows the organization flexibility for the future and possible options a few years from now.

“I complement our scouting staff at the job they did, not having a first-and-second round pick,” Lamoriello also said. “The objective going into the draft was no different than any other draft… Trying to get the best possible players available that will allow you to stockpile your assets… That’s exactly what transpired today.”

The other two picks the Isles made in the sixth and seventh rounds they used on defenseman Matias Rajaniemi and goaltender Henrik Tikkanen. Rajaniemi, stands at 6’4, 201 pounds and plays with the Pelicans U-20 team in Finland’s Jr. A SM-liga; Tikkanen, who comes in at a towering 6’8, is a member of HIFK in the same league as Rajaniemi.

Lamoriello said the 20-year-old Tikkanen was someone the team identified because of his size and improvement from last year to this past one.

The Tikkanen selection signaled the end of the day for the Isles, one that actually turned out to be balanced and quite productive despite not getting to pick in the first and second round.

Productive because they made an emphasis to making the winger position a top priority.