3 moves GM Lou Lamoriello made that saved the NY Islanders season

New York Islanders Training Camp
New York Islanders Training Camp / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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General Managers are used to criticism. It comes with the territory, and no GM has been around longer than NY Islanders President of Hockey Operations, Lou Lamoriello.

As the fanbase gets itself worked up with every trade rumor that doesn't materialize, every contract that is handed out, and every signing that underperforms, Lamoriello goes about his business in a way that doesn't let on what he's thinking or how he feels about what's happening on or off the ice.

His actions have always spoken louder than his words, and over the last two seasons, he's demonstrated an unwavering belief that the team he assembled was good enough to make the postseason and contend for a Stanley Cup.

2018 NHL Draft - Round One
2018 NHL Draft - Round One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

At 80 years old and rumored to be in the final year of the contract he signed with Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky in 2018, those on the outside wondered if this would be the final year of his Islanders tenure if the team didn't qualify for the playoffs for the second consecutive season with a need to be relevant in their shiny new UBS Arena.

But as always tends to do, Lamoriello made shrewd moves, ones those around the league did not see coming but were well conceived and matched what the team needed for the short and long term to remain a consistent playoff participant with enough talent and experience to make a deep run.

In his first three seasons on Long Island, the team was in playoff position for the majority, if not all, of the season. That wasn't the case this year. The team needed contributions from players that were not part of the lineup when the year started and got them through three acquisitions Lamoriello made in different ways for different purposes at different times.

Here are 3 moves Lamoriello made that saved the Islanders season.

Signing Hudson Fasching

Montreal Canadiens v New York Islanders
Montreal Canadiens v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Where would the Islanders be without Hudson Fasching? That's a serious question and one we never imagined asking at the start of the season.

The Fasching signing was unceremoniously announced on Aug. 23 as organizational depth as Lamoriello signed the power forward along with Dennis Cholowski, Arnaud Durandeau, and Paul LaDue. The former Minnesota Gopher was coming off a career year with the Tuscon Roadrunners of the AHL last season, scoring 37 points (14 goals, 23 assists) in 51 games, but no one could've expected what was to come.

The 2013 Los Angeles Kings 4th round pick had seven goals in 18 games at AHL Bridgeport and earned a call-up, along with Cole Bardreau, when the team lost Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Palmieri to injury. Fasching was the one to stick, and not just for the short term. As the Islanders' injuries continued to mount during the winter, Fasching, on a nightly basis, was doing things coaches, teammates, and fans appreciated.

“Honestly, when I got called up, I told myself, ‘Screw it, we’re just going to pretend I’m confident right from the  get-go,' ’'  said Fasching in early March. “That was the game plan, and we’re just going to run with it, see how it goes. So far so good."

Throughout the year, when the team's effort level came into question, there was Fasching, always going full throttle, recognizing the opportunity in front of him. During the playoff push, he did more than that, scoring big and timely goals, including the game-winner against the Buffalo Sabres and the go-ahead goal versus the Montreal Canadiens in the regular season finale.

“He works extremely hard. And he’s worked really hard to be here and stay in the lineup and compete every night and make a difference every night, and there’s a reason why he’s playing such great hockey and made a stamp on our team this season,” Anders Lee said back in March.

Trading for Pierre Engvall at the deadline

New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders
New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

When the trade deadline came, it was uncertain whether the Islanders would "stand pat" this time around. They had already made their big move in acquiring Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks, but had lost Mathew Barzal to injury on Feb. 18 and were in need of forward depth and one thing they lacked even before Barzal missed time - speed.

Enter Pierre Engvall, someone Lamoriello was familiar with from his time in Toronto. Lamoriello moved a 2024 3rd round pick to the Maple Leafs for the physically talented and versatile forward at a time when the team was down Barzal, Cal Clutterbuck, JG Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom.

The 26-year-old had shown flashes during this career and has always carried upside potential greater than his production, and the change of scenery heading into unrestricted free agency seemed to light a fire under Engvall. After a few early games where he was benched in the third period with Lane Lambert citing unfamiliarity with the team's style and structure, the tall and lean speedster found a home on a line with Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri that performed as the team's top line during the playoff push in March and April.

Lamoriello's calling card with the Islanders has been to retain players he has acquired. “We’ll take one thing at a time,” Lamoriello said after making the trade “He’s certainly an individual that you’d like to keep in your organization with the style he plays and his speed. I can’t overemphasize his speed.”

After finishing the season with a career-high 17 goals - including five goals and four assists with the Islanders in 18 games, an Engvall extension is expected to be an off-season priority, especially if he can leave a mark in the post-season, something he failed to do with Toronto.

Extending Bo Horvat

New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens
New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

Remember the concern and worry about not extending Bo Horvat after the blockbuster trade was made a month before the deadline? Well, not only did Lamoriello do it, but he also did it before Horvat ever hit the practice ice with the Islanders. It took just six days for the GM to execute his stated goal, locking up Horvat long-term, pairing him with Mathew Barzal for the next eight seasons at $68 million, and adding another high-character player to the fabric of the core group.

The move was a must for Lamoriello after trading Anthony Beauvillier, 20-year-old prospect Aatu Raty, and a protected 2023 1st-round pick to Vancouver for the former Canucks captain. The trade was viewed as high risk outside of the Islanders circle because the potential for the Islanders to both miss the playoffs and miss out on extending Horvat was viewed as a possibility, one that would've set back the franchise after trading their top prospect and another first-rounder with an already shallow prospect pool.

“The core here with Horvy is just going to do wonders, said Barzal after the extension was announced. “I think we're going to have a great eight years together. We're all excited. This was a big spark for sure."

But after the Barzal injury, things could have gone in a very different direction for the Islanders than the 14-7-2 record the team posted. If Horvat remained unsigned, the uncertainty around his long-term future on Long Island would've grown, as would've speculation that without Barzal, Lamoriello should flip him again at the trade deadline rather than play out the season on a team that was unlikely to make the playoffs.

However, the Islanders won three of their first four games without Barzal and started playing the structured style of a play that had served well in the past. Horvat adapted easily to that new style at provided stability at the center position that made a playoff push possible. By extending Horvat as soon as he did provide a signal to everyone in the room that this player was here for the long-term and help the room believe that they could still win games in Barzal's absence with one of their newest team leaders, one desperate to return to the playoffs, as part of the fold.