Lou Lamoriello's five best moves in his 5 years as NY Islanders GM

2019 NHL Draft - Round 2-7
2019 NHL Draft - Round 2-7 / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Five years ago, Lou Lamoriello made his first decisive moves as President of Hockey Operations for the New York Islanders when he named himself General Manager and fired long-time GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight. That move didn't come as a surprise, but how quickly Lamoriello was able to turn around the Islanders organization on and off the ice was unexpected.

"There's a culture change that's needed, and there's new voices needed in different areas, and because of that, the changes (were) made," Lamoriello said after naming himself GM. "There's been a lot of changes for different reasons, and right now is just trying to stabilize anything, start off with a fresh face, start off with a fresh mind, a fresh coach, and just go forward."

The culture change came and has remained with the organization since his arrival. Fans haven't agreed with every move made, but there's no doubting the lasting impact he's had on the franchise's trajectory and stability moving forward.

Not every move has been applauded, and the jury is still out on others. However, there has been more good than bad for Lamoriello in his five years as General Manager. Moves that include extending Brock Nelson to a six-year contract, trading for Kyle Palmieri after Anders Lee was lost for the 2021 season, and acquiring Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks have all made an impact, but none made our list of his best since joining the organization in 2018. With that, Here are the best five moves in the 5 years Lou Lamoriello has been Islanders' GM.

Hiring Barry Trotz

To say Barry Trotz fell onto the Islanders' lap would be an understatement. Weeks removed from hoisting the Stanley Cup as head coach of the Washington Capitals, one of the most successful coaches in NHL history was available after failing to agree to new terms with Caps ownership.

Simply put, the Islanders do not get Trotz to coach their team without Lamoriello as their GM and President of Hockey Operations. Lamoriello's unparalleled credibility was paramount to Trotz taking the job on Long Island as he took over a team that allowed the most goals in the NHL and transformed them into a defensively structured juggernaut, allowing the fewest goals in the NHL.

Vancouver Canucks v New York Islanders
Vancouver Canucks v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

"He brings experience, he brings knowledge and he brings success, which is the most important thing," Lamoriello said when they announced Trotz as head coach. "You have to win. He knows how to win, and he's a good human being. So I think he's a great role model for what we're trying to do as far as bring to the organization."

Trotz delivered all of that and more.

Signing Robin Lehner to a 1-year deal

As Isles fans were still recovering from John Tavares shunning the franchise for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lamoriello was making underwhelming moves, including signing Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula while trading back for fourth-liner Matt Martin.

With Jaroslav Halak not returning, the Islanders needed another goaltender to pair with Thomas Greiss. The talented and unpredictable Robin Lehner wasn’t Lamoriello’s first choice, but he was the right one. He signed a one-year $1.25 million deal with the Islanders after the Sabres decided not to offer him a new contract as an RFA.

Anaheim Ducks v New York Islanders
Anaheim Ducks v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Lehner turned his life and career around on Long Island, becoming a Vezina Finalist in his only year with the Islanders. The low-risk, high-reward signing of the 27-year Swede was one of the best bets made by Lamoriello as Lehner and Greiss captured the Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league during the 2018-19 season.

Lehner created a unique connection with the fanbase during his brief time on Long Island. The way his relationship with Lamoriello and the Isles ended was surprising and strange, but that does nothing to diminish Lehner's memorable turnaround season with the franchise, one of personal and professional triumph when it was least expected.

Trading for JG Pageau

At the trade deadline a year earlier in 2019, Lamoriello chose to “stay pat” and not make a move to improve an Islanders team that would finish with 102 points and earn home ice in the playoffs for the first time in over 30 years. In 2020, the Isles once again appeared playoff bound, but this time Lamoriello pulled the trigger by acquiring center JG Pageau from the Ottawa Senators

Buffalo Sabres v Ottawa Senators
Buffalo Sabres v Ottawa Senators / Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/GettyImages

Pageau, who was in the midst of a breakout offensive season, signed a six-year contract extension soon after the deal was announced. The Islanders struggled in the game immediately following the trade and were reeling when the season was suspended in March due to COVID-19. However, once play resumed in the Toronto bubble, Pageau proved himself to be a playoff performer in 2020 and 2021 while serving as a versatile player that can do a little of everything to help you win hockey games throughout the regular season.

Ilya Sorokin comes to North America

Lamoriello reeled in the White Whale.

Ilya Sorokin was a highly-touted CSKA Moscow goalie drafted by the Isles in the third round of the 2014 NHL Draft. When he extended his KHL contract in 2017 through 2020, it felt less likely that he would ever play professionally in North America - and if he did, it wouldn't be for the Islanders.

Dynamo Moscow v CSKA - Kontinental Hockey League
Dynamo Moscow v CSKA - Kontinental Hockey League / Anna Sergeeva/GettyImages

At 24 years old, he was considered one of the best goaltenders in the world that was not playing in the NHL. However, when Lamoriello took over the Islanders, the feeling was that the outlook of the franchise had been altered, and with a stable front office, a new arena being built, and playoff caliber team, they had become a more enticing option for Sorokin than previously.

In the middle of July 2020, Lamoriello announced that the team had signed Sorokin to an entry-level contract that would allow him to be around the team in the bubble as they started the 24-team expanded tournament. From there, he was signed to a 1-year, $2 million contract for the 2021 season. After a strong first NHL season which included four wins in a first round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Sorokin signed a three-year, $12 million extension in the off-season.

His game has continued to elevate, finishing sixth in the Vezina Trophy voting in 2021-22. The 27-year-old is amongst three finalists after this past season, where he appeared in 62 games, leading the Islanders to the playoffs and being named an All-Star for the first time.

Sorokin is set to become an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA)after next season, which means Lamoriello will need to sign him for a third time to keep him on Long Island.

Extending Mathew Barzal

Mathew Barzal broke onto the scene as the Calder Trophy winner the year before Lamoriello arrived on Long Island. Under Trotz, Barzal was asked to adjust and play a stronger, more consistent two-way responsible game within the confines of the Isles system.

Barzal became a more well-rounded player and experienced team success as the Isles won six playoff series in a three-year span. However, his offensive took a hit for it, and fans wondered whether Barzal would ultimately want to choose another city and another style of play when he became an unrestricted free agent.

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders - Game Six
Philadelphia Flyers v New York Islanders - Game Six / Elsa/GettyImages

After a frustrating 2021-22 season, Barzal had one year remaining on the three-year bridge contract. Signing him to a long-term contract was a focus for Lamoriello, and he didn't allow his potential extension to become a storyline during the season as he inked Barzal to an eight-year contract extension with an AAV of $9.15M a year.

"We expect a lot out of him. He expects a lot out of himself,” said Lamoriello of Barzal ahead of signing him to the extension. “And he’s worked very hard during the summer for that. You know, he’s without question one of our leaders, you know, without question, probably our most talented player, and he’s committed without question."

Lamoriello is banking on Barzal to continue to evolve and mature as a player worthy of the long-term commitment given to him. It's a move he had to make and one we'll watch play out for years to come.