The New York Islanders season has come to an end. The Isles surprised a lot of people by making it to the playoffs, let alone being in the second-round. Now the off-season begins and there is a lot on the agenda.
The New York Islanders season came to a disappointing end in Carolina on Friday night. There are so many positives to draw firm from this year but now there is a lot ahead on Lou Lamoriello’s to-do list.
Their Own Free Agents
The first order of business for the Isles is what do they do in regards to their own unrestricted free agents. The Isles have five key UFA’s in Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, Valtteri Filppula, and Robin Lehner.
Filppula is probably looking at a one-year deal either from the Isles or from someone else. He gave the Isles stability as the team’s third-line center and would allow a little more time for
to develop his game for the NHL at Bridgeport.
Given Eberle’s age (turns 29 mid-May) and production the Isles will probably look to upgrade unless they can bring him back on a short-term deal, which is unlikely.
Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and Robin Lehner all need to be resigned. Lee brings goal scoring and leadership to the Isles. It would not be good if the Islanders lost their captain two years in a row.
Nelson broke through this year under Barry Trotz. He played a consistent two-way game (25 goals, 53 points) as one of the Islanders top centers. Centers are hard to come by so replacing Brock would not be easy.
Lehner showed everyone this season the goalie he was capable of becoming. He and Thomas Greiss made a great tandem this season. Ilya Sorokin is probably a year away from coming over to the NHL and while he is a top prospect, he is not a given in terms of being a number one netminder. Lehner fit like a glove with the Islanders, so re-signing him makes all the sense in the world for both sides.
Lou needs to add an offensive player that fits into Trotz’s system and along with his hockey principles. The question is can Lou land that player through free agency (Artemi Panarin or Matt Duchene) or does he have to go the trade route?
Bottom line this team needs more scoring. The Isles finished the regular season with the 22nd best offense (2.72 goals per game).
At times scoring goals this year has been maddening for the blue and orange. During the regular season, the Isles were either shutout or scored just one goal in 21 games. That’s 25% of the season.
On the converse when the Isles scored three goals or more in the regular season they went 38-2-2. In the playoffs, this trend held to form with their series against Pittsburgh and Carolina. Lou needs to improve the offense and that starts with a top-six forward.
During the regular season, the Isles power play was one of the league’s worst this past season (Ranked 29th at 14.5%). With their personnel, the Isles shouldn’t be that bad.
Adding a top-six forward would also help the power play but that alone will not fix the problem. A fresh approach is probably needed which means Scott Gomez would need to be replaced.
No one is asking for the Isles to have the power play efficiency of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Having said that it cannot be this inefficient again next season.
Lou and Trotz have their foundation and culture well under way. This off-season is about putting this team in position to take the next step.