Lou Lamoriello has been busy today. As part of a flurry of moves, the New York Islanders have re-signed Ross Johnston to a four-year deal.
Old-school hockey. It is a term that many seem to cringe at, but the New York Islanders will be fully embracing beating the living daylights out of their opponents every night.
It is becoming clear that physicality will be the Islanders most distinguishable quality this year, and this is only highlighted by the signing of Ross Johnston.
Johnston tallied six points in 24 games, which puts him on pace for 21 points over the course of a full 82-game season.
He was a surprise call-up for the Islanders last season, leading many fans to question why Garth Snow was bringing an AHL fourth-line grinder to the NHL level. Johnston impressed in the blue and orange, providing the team with occasional scoring, strong defensive play, and an enforcer.
While it is great that Johnston is back with the Islanders, a four-year deal is incredibly surprising.
It appears there isn’t even a role for Johnston on the team this year, given that Lamoriello has 15 NHL forwards under contract, not including Joshua Ho-Sang, Kieffer Bellows, Tanner Fritz, and Michael Dal Colle.
It is hard to question one of the greatest general managers in NHL history, but his approach this offseason has been interesting to say the least, and this signing further complicates the 2018-2019 forward core.
The New York Islanders have also signed Russian center Jan Kovar to a one-year, $2 million contract. Kovar will slot in on the Islanders second or third line and provide the team with a cheap, low-risk option up the middle.
This does not complicate the future of Brock Nelson, however, as one may think. Lamoriello is confident Nelson will be on the roster next season no matter what the Islanders need to do to get this deal done.
"“He will be on the roster, one way or the other.”"
Kovar struggled in the KHL last season after losing two of his favorite line-mate, Danis Zaripov, one of the best players in KHL history. After losing Zaripov, Kovar only put up seven goals, which was quite the drop-off for a player who has always been a point-per-game guy.
The 30-year old center might have a transitional period to the NHL level, but for only $2 million on a one-year deal, it is certainly worth the risk.
Lou Lamoriello and his son, Chris, were also very active at the AHL level today. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers had one of their biggest days in franchise history in terms of signings, adding one of the greatest AHL players of all-time, Chris Bourque.
Bourque will play with his brother, Ryan, and form one of the best brother combinations in AHL history. This was a pipe dream for Sound Tigers fans earlier this offseason, and it has finally come to fruition.
The Sound Tigers have also re-signed various players, including Ryan Bourque, Connor Jones, and Ben Holmstrom. Another goalie, Jeremy Smith, has been added to the organization as well. He could be switching between Worcester and Bridgeport this season.
Today was a crazy day for the Islanders front office, one that has been fun to follow. It is nice to see Lamoriello valuing success at the minor league level, while simultaneously adding depth to the Islanders.
This season will certainly be fun to watch…