The offseason has arrived (for the New York Islanders at least) and now is the time for Lou Lamoriello to shine after a surprisingly effective 2018 offseason of moves. Here are six wishes for Lou and team.
Every team, even an overachieving New York Islanders team, can improve in the offseason. After watching the past season and, like Lou, seeing what we have, several moves need to be made in order for Lou Lamoriello’s offseason to be successful.
Make no mistake – in no way am I saying I know more than Lou Lamoriello or anyone on his staff, but these are the wishes that I, as a closely-watching fan, see as the most pressing wishes for the offseason.
Wish 1: Move Nick Leddy
Please do not misunderstand this – I think Nick Leddy is a fine player. He proved that in Chicago and in his first few years with the Isles. He simply doesn’t seem to have it on the island anymore, and a change of scenery will help him and the Isles.
He can move to a more offensive system and thrive, while the Isles can clear his $5.5M cap hit for the next three years and give their budding pipeline of young defensemen a closer look. Devon Toews can (and already has) step into the role left by Leddy.
If this doesn’t happen, I’m not sure Lou Lamoriello’s offseason can be considered a win.
Wish 2: Move Andrew Ladd
Yes, I understand moving an injury-prone, underachieving 33-year-old with a $5.5 million cap hit and a No Trade Clause is asking a lot, but it certainly is not impossible. This is a wish list, after all.
A few factors to consider:
You have to imagine Ladd would waive his NTC for the right situation. He can’t be happy in New York after the last three disastrous seasons. Putting it behind him for a fresh start and less pressure could be an easier sell for Lou and team than you may think.
If Lou is willing to eat, say, half of the cap hit and send a 2nd round pick to a team looking for some veteran leadership on the third line it could happen. Imagine a team taking a flier on Ladd by sending a low-level prospect to the Isles in exchange for Ladd, salary relief and a 2nd rounder. Low risk for the trading partner.
He may not have a choice. The debate between the Isles scratchpad for 65 games or 15 minutes a night on a team like the Oilers or Sens in desperate need of stability may be enticing enough for a proud player like Ladd.
Wish 3: Make room for at least one forward prospect
Lou Lamoriello and team proved to us in many ways that they know more about running a team than every single fan, but probably in no way more than leaving pre-season darling Kieffer Bellows off of the NHL roster. He regressed in the AHL and Lou knew it.
Trading Ladd would be a start, as would letting Filppula, Eberle, and Kuhnhackl walk, but with the stockpile of talent in the AHL and lack of scoring punch on the NHL roster, one of my wishes for the offseason is to find even more space for some young talent on the NHL roster.
Wish 4: Trade a defensive prospect for a forward
Everyone knows the old adage that you can never have enough defense. But you can when you don’t have enough offense. The Isles have excellent young depth at the defensive position in the minors – Aho, Wilde, Dobson, Vande Sompel, Quenneville, etc – and on the NHL roster, so the idea of packaging up one of those players for a top forward seems obvious.
Depending on the player targeted the package would differ, but I’m not an advocate for mortgaging the future. A manageable package of rising-prospect Bode Wilde, David Quenneville and a 2nd rounder for top-six winger seems reasonable.
Wish 5: Break up the fourth line
This one isn’t going to be popular.
Not technically an executive’s decision, I realize, and I know, they were at many times the best line on the team for stretches, and they set the tone. But I can’t justify Cizikas being held down by his linemates any longer and I can’t justify Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin being on the ice for every game.
That Cizikas could score 20 goals with a medley penalty-kill time and Clutterbuck’s blind behind-the-back-to-nobody passes is amazing, and only proves he deserves to be bumped up to the 3C role to be surrounded by more talent.
And with Clutterbuck facing potential back surgery this summer, it could be that we don’t see him back on the ice for quite some time. Certainly, don’t wish him any setbacks, but back injuries are no joke.
Wish 6: Give Sorokin an ultimatum
I know he’s good, and I know he’s putting up great numbers on a top team in the KHL. But he clearly has little interest in playing in the NHL, and more so for playing for the Isles, so let’s give him an ultimatum to come join the club when he is out of his contract or strike while the iron is hot and he’s at his peak and get maximum return on his rights.
Then lock in Lehner for 3-4 years and put the focus on developing other goalies, like 2018 3rd-rounder Jakub Skarek.
I could get into other items like drafting the best available player or signing a top talent like Jeff Skinner, but ultimately those aren’t my most pressing wishes. Plus, like I said, Lou Lamoriello knows so much more than we do and he proved it for the past twelve months, but a guy can still hope and dream for the above wishes.