For New York Islanders fans, this was a tough week. To quote Tom Cruise from A Few Good Men "And The Hits Just Keep on Coming". The Isles not only lost out on top free agent Johnny Gaudreau but made no moves on day one of free agency to improve the team. Given the numerous reports that Gaudreau's decision came down to the Islanders and New Jersey Devils before he ultimately chose the Columbus Blue Jackets, it appears the appetite to improve the top-6 forward group is there, but the radio silence since missing out on the top free agent has inserted unease on Long Island.
Some good secondary options came off the board while Lamoriello seemingly had tunnel vision on Gaudreau that could have significantly improved the New York Islanders' top-six forward group (Max Pacioretty & Andre Burakovsky for instance). Despite there being few options left, Lamoriello can't sit on his hands and still needs to figure out a way to improve the roster.
Remember when you were in grade school and your class would play musical chairs? When the music stopped if you were without a chair you lost. The music hasn't stopped yet for Lamoriello but the options are slowly dwindling and it's getting closer and closer to when the music will end.
While the Islanders have some core players locked in long-term on the main roster this is a win-now team. A healthy amount Islander core players are between the ages of 30 -32 (J.G Pageau joins this group in November). In addition, the Islanders have to prove that they can get back to their former selves before the 2021-22 season in which it felt like a witch doctor was using a voodoo doll on them. Many teams in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference have already improved this off-season.
With the rest of the East's off-season improvements aside, everyone knows that for the Isles to get back to cup contention, they needed to make a few improvements. Adding Alexander Romanov, while under the radar and maybe not as splashy or sexy as other potential blue line options, could end up being a home run for years to come. Kudos to Lou and the front office for that move.
But now a lot is on the line as the Islanders head into next season. Assuming they're are a playoff team in a very deep Eastern Conference they are going to need another offensive weapon to be an elite team in the playoffs. Their lack of offense at times was the difference in past years, such as playoff series losses to the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Counting on 22-year-old Oliver Wahlstrom to make the jump to a 30-goal scorer next season is not how top organizations operate, nor is it fair on the third-year pro after back-to-back seasons potting 12 and 13 goals respectively.
While the music is slowing it hasn't stopped yet and there are still some options out there on the open market to make this an off-season to remember. Nazem Kadri could work but there are a lot of obstacles with that move. Kadri is coming off a career year with 87 points. His previous high is 61 and has only broken 50 points three times in his career. There's also the issue of the contract for the soon-to-be 32-year-old and the fact that either Kadri or one of the Isles top two centers would potentially have to move to the wing. A lot of potential pitfalls there.
The best options appear to be a trade and while you never know who is and isn't available, it appears that J.T Miller and Vladimir Tarasenko could both be on the market. In a potential Miller trade, the cap should not be an issue with his cap number at $5.25 million, however, it's likely Lamoriello will want to extend him if acquired. In a Tarasenko deal (7.5 million cap hit), someone on the Isles roster would have to be moved out carrying a decent cap hit (Anthony Beauvillier at 4.15 million for instance).
The bottom line is failure is not an option here. As stated previously the Isles are a win-now team and if they don't make the necessary move(s) this summer to get better they will see plenty of teams pass them by and they will be looking to retool or rebuild, sooner rather than later.