New York Islanders: Missing The Obvious Lamoriello Connection
By Matt O'Leary
Everyone is talking about the New York Islanders pursuing a scoring forward, but they’re missing the obvious Lou Lamoriello connection.
Ever since the New York Islanders hired Lou Lamoriello, fans and media members alike have been dreaming up scenarios in which Lou improves the Islanders. For some reason, Ilya Kovalchuk is a name that is often brought up.
They make the connection because Kovalchuk played for Lamoriello with the Devils and Kovalchuk wants to play in the New York market. Realistically, this move makes zero sense for the Islanders. Why take a flier on a 35-year-old left winger when you already have Anders Lee, Anthony Beuvillier, Andrew Ladd, and Kieffer Bellows.
Plus, Kovalchuk will probably yield upwards of $3.5 million per year, and why would he come to play on the third line?
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The lazy connection is made because he once played for Lamoriello. That’s really it. Even Bob McKenzie, who is well respected around the league thinks Lou will add a scoring winger to the mix. Why?
Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey, Andrew Ladd, and Jordan Eberle aren’t going anywhere. Where is this scoring winger going to play?
This isn’t to say the Islanders don’t need a forward, they do, it’s just not a winger. They could use a third line center.
Last year, Brock Nelson served this role and he was putrid. He had 35 points (19 goals, 16 assists) a 45.5 CF percentage and only 138 shots on goal, the lowest of his career since his 72 game rookie season.
Nelson also gives you nothing defensively and isn’t particularly a good faceoff guy. All he has is a good wrist shot but if he isn’t going to shoot he serves zero purpose. So it makes sense to move on from the RFA whose act has grown tiresome.
Why wouldn’t the connection be Tyler Bozak to the Islanders?
He just played for Lou Lamoriello in Toronto and he’s a UFA this offseason. Bozak is coming off a 43 point season serving as the Maple Leafs third line center. Bozak had a 53.3 CF percentage and he won 53.6 percent of his faceoffs as opposed to Brock who won 48.3 percent.
He is coming off the last year of a five-year $21 million contract ($4.2 million AAV). If you can add Bozak to the mix as the third line center in that $4-$4.5 million range it makes a lot of sense.
He would be great to put between any combination of Kieffer Bellows, Anthony Beauvillier, and Josh Ho-Sang. He’d be a two way forward that can help otherwise more offensive-minded forwards and set them up to be the playmakers they are.
With the cap expected to be between $78-$82 million, the Islanders can afford Bozak on a short-term deal as a depth forward. Certainly retaining Tavares, improving the goalie and defense positions are more important but Lamoriello would be wise to add a legit third line center into the mix as well because that third line was one of the weakest points of the team last year.
I can’t sit through another year of Ladd – Nelson – Fritz.
Having Andrew Ladd makes it a little difficult to come up with a lineup, but maybe you’re looking at something like this for 2018-2019 for the lines:
Lee – Tavares – Bailey
Beauvillier – Barzal – Eberle
Bellows – Bozak – Ladd
Johnston – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
The brutal Ladd contract is really killing the Isles. Who knows, maybe Lou can convince him to waive the no-trade and ship him off to Arizona who needs to reach the cap floor. One can dream, right?
Next: Don't forget about Kieffer Bellows
Adding another scoring winger to the mix won’t happen, but the addition of a legit third line center that Lou knows quite well would be a welcomed addition.