Do not look for New York Islanders General Manager Lou Lamoriello to be a huge player when the NHL Free Agency period begins on July 13th. Instead, look for Lamoriello to go the trade route to improve the squad.
The Islanders made an aggressive and bold move shortly after the regular season ended when they let go of Barry Trotz. Expect Lamoriello to continue to be aggressive in terms of improving his team, just don't look for a huge free agent signing.
Big Fish in Free Agency - Unlikely
No doubt Lamoriello believes the Isles can get back to being a top contender next season. However, there are a few reasons why the trade route makes a lot more sense for Lamoriello.
First, there isn't a player in unrestricted free agency that Lamoriello would be willing to go max years (7 years) or dollars ($9 - $10 Million) given the history of the market. Another factor is the state of the Islanders' cap given they have to sign Mathew Barzal and Noah Dobson to long-term deals sooner than later. Also, don't forget Scott Mayfield's bargain-basement cap hit of $1.45 million ends after next season.
Last year there were reports that Lamoriello was willing to go all-in on Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog. Is there a Landeskog for Lou in this year's free-agent market? The candidates would be Johnny Gaudreau or Filip Forsberg. Would Lou go to $10 million AAV for either of them, especially considering he still needs to lock up Barzal?
The trade route makes more sense for the Isles in terms of a significant move to improve the blue line and the top-six forward group in order to prevent their cap situation from getting out of control.
There appear to be several teams willing to talk turkey with Lou if his phone rings with a trade candidate on the other end of the call. Some teams need to make moves due to their cap constraints while others are in the process of rebuilding.
Clearly for the Islanders to have a big off-season, Lamoriello needs to improve the team's scoring and add a puck-moving defenseman.
This summer for the first time in quite a while Lamoriello should have some cap space to work with. The Isles are roughly $12 million under the cap. The biggest pending free agent is Dobson. Given the season that the former 12th overall draft pick is coming off of, a bridge deal might make more sense at this point and time. giving Lamoriello more cap space to work with signing Dobson to a smaller deal.
Speaking of Beauvillier, Lamoriello does have some assets to offer in trade talks as Beau might have played his last game in the blue and orange and as the 25-year-old forward is an attractive player for other clubs. The Islanders' first-round pick (13th overall) in next week's Draft is in play for sure and to retrieve a top player, you'd imagine Lamoriello would listen long and hard regarding prospects Aatu Raty and William Dufour as well.
If Lamoriello can reel in a huge scorer such as Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks, he might have to consider trading Oliver Wahlstrom. If Lou has an opportunity to reel in a huge fish who is 27 or under he has to go all in.
The bottom line is if the Islanders are going to add a couple of impactful players this summer it will most likely be through trade, not free agency