Now that we are one step closer to the NHL off-season, the burning questions resurface for this New York Islanders roster. The team has an important summer ahead while trying to return to playoff form for the 2022-23 season.
Many Islanders fans are now able to breathe as the New York Rangers were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Stanley Cup Finals begin Wednesday and then the focus will be on the draft and free agency.
As per usual, Lou Lamoriello and company have been quiet in the rumor mill. Not many players have been thrown out in trade discussions or free agency landing spots.
New York Islanders Re-Tooling
This is a key off-season for the legacy of Lamoriello’s tenure with the Islanders. No one expected Lou to be a long-term plan for this organization and time is ticking.
Entering his fifth season at the helm of the Islanders, Lou began this significant off-season by firing his successful coach, Barry Trotz.
Succeeding Trotz is his long time assistant, Lane Lambert.
Lambert has been regarded as a hot coaching candidate for years but has never been a head coach in the NHL. Interesting choice as this is a veteran group that is tight against the salary cap.
It will not be easy to maneuver this roster and provide too much change from last season’s squad, but if anyone can do it, Lou has the resume to get the job done.
The Islanders lacked speed and creativity from the bottom defensive pairs for most of the season. Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara bring many positive elements but losing Nick Leddy’s speed out of the defensive zone were never replaced.
Despite this lack of depth, the Islanders blue line has many positives in Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, Noah Dobson, and pending free agent in 2023, Scott Mayfield.
Despite injuries and Covid absences, the Islanders were able to slide in players from Bridgeport to fill the gaps. Players like Robins Salo, Paul LaDue, and Grant Hutton not only filled the gaps but performed quite admirably.
The Bridgeport Islanders had three defensemen with 20 plus points in Salo, Hutton, and Parker Wotherspoon. Additionally, the Islanders have defensive prospects in Samuel Bolduc and Bode Wilde that are looking to take steps this coming year.
As has been an issue the last four seasons, the Islanders have had trouble scoring. The scoring by committee works well in a playoff atmosphere, but this team needs a sniper to push through the scoring droughts of a long NHL season.
Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom have shown flashes of being that possible sniper, but not enough consistency to rely on for a veteran club.
Prospect, Aatu Raty, has been the steal of the draft, but can he step in and be an NHL sniper year one?
As evident of this season’s playoffs, the best teams can score plenty and from every line. The Islanders will need to be able to match that scoring if they consider themselves Cup contenders.
What is the one position that should be addressed this off-season?
If the Islanders can only make one addition this off-season, it is important to have a true sniper join the top line with Mathew Barzal. Barzal not only needs to have a better season but have a reason to remain an Islanders player for the long term.
Adding versatile defensemen will be at the top of Lamoriello’s list this summer, but with players like Salo ready for the next step, it is imperative that he does whatever it takes to bring in a legit sniper via trade or free agency.