In both 2019-20 and 2020-21, New York Islanders General Manager Lou Lamoriello was awarded GM of the Year. He helped equip head coach Barry Trotz with some of the best available assets on both the trade and free-agency market that brought the Islanders to back to back postseasons. It was a different offseason in the summer of 2021, however, and the Islanders weren't as equipped as seasons prior headed into the 2021-22 season.
Goalies: Ilya Sorokin
Defense: Sebastian Aho|Zdeno Chara|Noah Dobson|Scott Mayfield|Adam Pelech|Ryan Pulock
Forwards: Josh Bailey|Mathew Barzal|Anthony Beauvillier|Kieffer Bellows|Casey Cizikas|Cal Clutterbuck|Anders Lee|Brock Nelson|Matt Martin|Kyle Palmieri|Jean-Gabriel Pageau|Zach Parise|Oliver Wahlstrom
Team Level: New York Islanders
Offseason Roster Management: C-
The Islanders needed cap space in order to keep certain players on the roster to continue their quest for the Stanley Cup. Cap management started with the 2021 NHL Expansion draft where Lamoriello protected forwards Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, J.G. Pageau, Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, and Matt Martin; defenseman Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield; and goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
The key exemptions were Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle. The Seattle Kraken plucked the Isles' top-line right-winger and received $5.5 million in cap relief. Later in the offseason, Lamoriello managed to ship Andrew Ladd's contract to the Arizona Coyotes relieving his and Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings relieving each of their $5.5 million cap hits. Lamoriello was then able to extend Palmieri to a four-year, $20 million contract and Casey Cizikas to a six-year, $15 million contract. The cap space hoops Lamoriello jumped through seemed to work quite well at that point in the offseason.
Zach Parise was brought in on a one-year, league-minimum deal with incentives which turned out to be an excellent contract for what Parise was worth all season long. There was but one whole left to fill and that was a top-four defenseman. Lamoriello was fairly quiet right up until training camp was about to start when he signed then 44-year-old Zdeno Chara to a one-year contract at league minimum with incentives much like Parise.
Because it took Lamoriello a bit of time to figure out his second pairing defenseman issue, it's obvious Chara wasn't his first choice. He swung and missed on improving the blue-line as well as improving the offense. In hindsight, we now know Lamoriello didn't effectively equip the Islanders with a roster that could grind out their first 82-game season in two seasons. He did however figure out how to offload a couple of hefty contracts. Lamoriello did more harm than good, so for that, he receives a C-.
In-Season Management: C-
The Islanders were set to open their regular season on October 14th, and on the same day, Pulock and Lamoriello agreed to a long-term, eight-year, $49.2 million deal. Getting Pulock's contract signed a year early gave Lamoriello the possibility to sign his top-pairing defenseman to an excellent contract as he would likely have received more on the open market. The Buffalo Sabres then traded Jack Eichel to the Vegas Golden Knights. Lamoriello quickly took advantage by flipping Johnny Boychuk's cap hit that was on Long-Term Injured Reserve in order to accrue cap space leading up to the trade deadline. Those moves were the highlight of Lamoriello's in-season management as it went downhill from there.
When the Islanders' Covid complications hit their hardest, Lamoriello openly admitted he didn't advocate for postponement despite playing with a large population of the Islanders AHL roster.
"I have never asked for games to be postponed. We have to trust, and we do, their decisions. What goes into these decisions and what statistics allow them to make these conclusions. I’m not privy to that so all we can do is respond to what their decisions are."- Lou Lamoriello
That seems like a bit of mismanagement as the Islanders were in the midst of a losing streak that at the time was seemingly never-ending. The Islanders did all they could after finally returning to full health in mid-February to try and make a run at claiming playoff position but by the trade deadline, it was evident that wasn't going to happen.
Lamoriello doubled down on his current roster at the trade deadline by not acquiring assets in exchange for pending free agents, but instead extending Cal Clutterbuck to a two-year, $3.5 million contract and Parise to another year at his current cap hit plus incentives. One would argue Lamoriello missed on an opportunity to equip himself with more ammunition to use in the offseason. The Pulock extension and Boychuk transaction were both excellent, strategic moves, but Lamoriello failed pretty much everywhere else. For that, he gets another C-.
Final Grade: C-
The Barry Trotz firing affects next season, we'll grade him then. As for everything else, Lamoriello did a lot of good, but an equal amount of harm. For that, he receives a C- overall. It's now a vital offseason where Lamoriello has already relieved Trotz and promoted Lane Lambert to head coach. He now has a long list of improvements to make this summer. Hopefully, next season he receives a better grade.