New York Islanders Reaction After First Day of Free Agency

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 22: Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders attends the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 22: Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders attends the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

After the first day of free agency, the New York Islanders didn’t take that positive step forward they were hoping to take after losing out on UFA Artemi Panarin.

We all likely went to bed as happy as a clam on Sunday night. Just before the calendar turned to July 1, the New York Islanders were favored to land coveted UFA Artemi Panarin. It felt like it was only a matter of time until he was wearing an Isles jersey.

We all got excited and invested in what the future might hold. We should have known it was too good to be true. Fifteen minutes before free agency was officially opened, it was all over.

The day started out bright, it then went downhill very quickly, and by the end of the day everyone was feeling everything from mad, happy, sad, and confused.

Panarin to Rangers

At 11:45 am EST Darren Dreger tweeted that Artemi Panarin had all but signed with the New York Rangers. That’s all it took. A crushing wave of anxiety and deja vu. We’ve been there before, quite recently in fact. And here we were again.

Adding insult to injury, Panarin took less money to play for the Rangers. The Islanders had reportedly offered him a $12.5 million deal, the deal he signed with the Rangers carried an $11.642 million cap hit.

Everything was coming up Isles just 12 hours before free agency began, but the second it opened we were reminded just how much work has to go into re-building this franchise and its desirability around the league.

Anders Lee Saga

Anders Lee is back. So that’s a good thing. But because the New York Islanders were chasing Artemi Panarin it cost them a year on Anders Lee’s deal.

Lee eventually signed with the Isles for seven years with a $7 million cap hit. The cap hit is perfect for a player that’s scored 102 goals over the last three seasons and was by all accounts in demand in free agency. But over seven years is tough.

Lee is 28 years old. He’ll be 35 by the time the deal is over. Maybe it all works out and Anders Lee is still worth that money by the end of the deal. Typical NHL aging curves for forwards tell you that it probably won’t end well.

But after missing out on Panarin, the Islanders had no choice but to double back on Lee and give him that seventh year.

I’m glad Lee is back, though.

Semyon Varlamov

The Islanders gave former Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov a four-year deal worth $20 million ($5 million AAV). A deal they didn’t want to give to Robin Lehner mind you. (More on Lehner).

Varlamov is a good NHL caliber goalie. But he isn’t necessarily better than Robin Lehner. Over his career, Varlamov holds a 2.68GAA and a 0.916 SV%. For Lehner, those stats are 2.70GAA and 0.919SV%.

It’s hard to see how signing Varlamov moves the needle forward for the Islanders. Lehner is by all accounts a better goalie, he would have cost the same, and wanted nothing more than to stay. Why throw that all away for Semyon Varlamov? I don’t get it.

Robin Lehner

What happened between the New York Islanders and Robin Lehner? It sounds like it took an inordinate amount of time to get Lehner’s deal “sorted” and when he wanted to think it over, the Islanders just decided to get another goalie? Not a good look from the Islanders.

It’s confusing how the Islanders were willing to sign a goalie like Varlamov, who had a bad year with the Avalanche, to a four-year deal, but couldn’t do the same for a Vezina finalist like Lehner?

I’m disappointed it didn’t work out with Lehner. He was (and still is) an absolute inspiration and a top-notch shot-stopper. I’m glad he found a home in Chicago, but man I wish it was with the Islanders.

At the very least I wish that his time with the Islanders would have ended on a positive and not this negative drama-filled ending we have now.

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The New York Islanders aren’t better off than they were on June 30th, if anything they potentially got weaker on paper with the goalie swap. With another $8.5 million in cap space, we’ll see what Lou Lamoriello does to actually move the needle forward.