The New York Islanders second line of Anders Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle have something in common. They are all pending unrestricted free agents.
The New York Islanders finally have the management team in place to build a long-term strategy, so there may be more to this line combination than meets the eye.
This could be a hedging of bets by Barry Trotz.
With a first line of Josh Bailey, Mat Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier, he has players under team control for several years (and very good contracts at that) to build long-term rapport together.
By putting together a second line of Lee, Nelson and Eberle, he is protecting the continuity of the Barzal line and the team overall should one or all of these second-line forwards be sent packing (
And by pairing players who are under contract for several years, he is protecting a player like Mat Barzal from building too much chemistry with one player (e.g. Eberle) with the risk of losing that player and possibly setting Barzal’s progress back.
It’s clear that Barry Trotz likes these combinations. He started the season with the same top two forward lines, but this could also be input from Lou Lamoriello and management as they look to build a long-term strategy.
We’ve seen the many failed attempts to keep a consistent winger for John Tavares during his tenure on the island, and since Lou Lamoriello is no Mike Milbury or Garth Snow, he is thinking about the best interests of both the team and his best player.
Could Lou also be trying to save money on contracts by not inflating the statistics of Lee or Eberle this season by playing alongside Barzal?
I don’t imply that he’s sabotaging the team, but would he just rather that Bailey and Beauvillier, already locked into team contracts, score those goals instead?
It would be a calculated, savvy negotiation tactic. Lou Lamoriello is both calculated and savvy as a Hall of Fame team builder.
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It may be nothing but coincidence, but let’s keep an eye on it as the season unfolds and contract discussions begin. The Isles brass may feel it would be easier to simply bring in an entirely new second line than fill a hole or two on several different lines.