We're now well into August and the NY Islanders are quiet, a little too quiet. The need(s) are the same for Isles GM Lou Lamoriello in terms of finding an impact forward to upgrade the forward group to give them a boost in the goal-scoring department. The talk around Nazem Kadri and the Islanders continues to pick up steam as Lamoriello, much like the last offseason, is keeping his cards close to his chest and is likely to announce his signings at the end of August or early September.
With Lamoriello's secrecy, it appears he could be holding up the rest of the offseason with some pretty intriguing names still available on the free agent market.
Remaining in-house business
The Islanders have important restricted free agents that need new contracts entering this season. Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov will be important pieces to Lane Lambert’s lineup board. Kieffer Bellows is also important, however, it shouldn't surprise anyone if he is included in a potential trade.
Dobson is expected to have significant raise in salary towards the salary cap and Romanov may not be far behind. But the belief is that both of the RFA defensemen have agreed to terms with Lamoriello but the contract has just not been filed.
The speculation applies to Kadri as well. The hold-up appears to be how Lamoriello is going to clear salary with few trade partners potentially left which feels like it should make it more difficult for Lamoriello to have the upper hand in bargaining with rival general managers.
On the move?
The larger contracts like Anthony Beauvillier, Semyon Varlamov, Josh Bailey, and J.G. Pageau come to the forefront for potential departures.
Pageau has strong trade value, but that would certainly change the make-up of this team. The more recent names on the rumor mill are Beauvillier and Varlamov. Beauvillier has reportedly caught the interest of the Montreal Canadiens, however, it feels unlikely Lamoriello would be willing to trade him to Montreal with not much available in terms of a roster upgrade. Unless Lamoriello is upgrading his second-line winger, he's not trading the 25-year-old forward.
Varlamov is an interesting case. The Vegas Golden Knights will be without Robin Lehner for the entire season and have aspirations to not only be playoff contenders but compete for the Stanley Cup. Kelly McCrimmon reportedly had interest in Varlamov at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, however, nothing came to fruition. Vegas has proven they're not afraid to shake things up via trade, so if Lamoriello is getting a goaltender in return there's a world in which you could see Varlamov being moved with one year left on his contract at $5 million. Lamoriello has also been vocal about wanting to keep his goalie tandem together, so it sounds as though he'd really need to be enticed.
On the market (still)
Is it a coincidence that the rest of the free agent market has gone silent? The Islanders could look to make a few changes if any of the previously named players are on the move. Players like Sonny Milano (a Long Island native), Paul Stastny, Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban, and Evan Rodrigues start to come to mind as solid options still available that could fill potential holes.
Milano is especially interesting as a young forward who has seen success at the NHL level. Just last season flanking Trevor Zegras, Milano scored 14 goals and 34 points. If the Islanders move a forward, Milano could be an effective option to fill the void and he won't break the bank. The same goes for Kessel who, although only scored eight goals last season, played for the Arizona Coyotes and would likely see more success on a team that's not bottom three in the NHL.
Maybe the reason that there are some intriguing names still on the market like Milano or Kessel is that the plethora of moves that Kevin Weekes reported are ready to go whenever Lamoriello makes his grand announcement, it's possible one or two of them could also become Islanders after any possible trades he may have in place. Or maybe they could have a handshake agreement with the teams involved in a potential trade with the Islanders. Whatever Lamoriello has up his sleeve, it feels like he's holding up the remainder of the offseason, and once his domino falls, the remaining free agents could land as well.