The New York Islanders headed into the 2022 NHL Draft with the 13th overall pick and left with a top-4 defenseman. That didn't come via draft selection, however. Isles GM Lou Lamoriello dealt his first-round draft pick to the Montreal Canadiens for Alexander Romanov and pick No. 98 in the fourth round. Lamoriello believes he got what he believes is his defensive defenseman and it's unlikely he's done making moves to improve the immediate roster.
Before the draft, Lamoriello told the media he had aspirations to acquire not one but two defensemen:
Romanov fills a necessary need as a top-4 defenseman likely to slot next to Noah Dobson for the foreseeable future. The pair of 22-year-olds has the potential to be one of the better blue line tandems for a long, long time.
“He’s more of a defensive defenseman," Lamoriello stated after trading for Romanov. "But in his junior years he put up points, but we’re more concerned with what the six looks like, rather than what one looks like.”
The thing is, we know it's Lamoriello's world and we're just living in it. So when he says he wants two defensemen, there's reason to believe he'll get it done. It also speaks to how the organization feels about Robin Salo and his readiness to play every night in the NHL. What will be interesting to watch is what kind of defenseman Lamoriello goes after. Despite claiming he's more of a defensive defenseman, Romanov does have offensive upside and can move the puck, albeit they're both skills he needs to make strides in.
Perhaps Lamoriello is interested in acquiring a defenseman with offensive prowess to play alongside Scott Mayfield. Or perhaps that will come via free agency that begins on Wednesday. Whatever the case may be, it's hard to believe Lamoriello will bring back Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene in player roles to fill out his top-6, and it's safe to assume Sebastian Aho saw his last days as an Islander.
The Islanders brought Anthony Beauvillier with them to the draft and he was present with Lamoriello and Co. on the draft floor. It was a smart move by Lamoriello to bring the French-Canadian along despite the rumors that he will be traded. The gesture to bring one of your players to meet draftees as a welcoming committee hardly screams "we're trading this player."
The forward group is crowded but the Islanders have been connected to a number of forwards on the trade market. Josh Bailey has also been long rumored to be available and with no trade protection, it's easy to see why. In true Lamoriello fashion, no one guessed the Romanov deal was coming, so if there is a forward in mind Lamoriello is targeting, we likely don't know who that is either. What we do know is that Mathew Barzal needs line-mates and consistent ones at that. Free agency has the potential to solve that problem but if Lamoriello doesn't like the crop of UFAs that reaches July 13th, he may figure out how to improve his forward group via trade. And who knows, the Islanders have five picks in rounds 2-6 of the draft. Who's to say that doesn't happen on the draft floor?