This was supposed to be a busy summer for the New York Islanders. The team was coming off a disappointing season in which they missed the playoffs, leading to head coach Barry Trotz's dismissal in May. They were connected to all the big names in the free agent and trade market, including Nazem Kadri, J.T. Miller and Johnny Gaudreau.
Even general manager Lou Lamoriello — famously a man of few words — was projecting big things, saying ahead of the draft: “We’ll be as active as we can to make us better."
However, now six weeks since that comment, the Islanders have been one of the quietest teams in the league. Kadri landed with the Flames, Gaudreau signed with the Blue Jackets and the Canucks appear to be in no rush to move on from Miller. Instead, defenceman Alexander Romanov is the only NHL-ready player the Islanders have acquired — in an expensive three-team trade that saw New York send pick No. 13 in this summer's draft to Chicago via Montreal.
On Monday the Islanders announced new contracts for three restricted free agents — Romanov, Noah Dobson and Kieffer Bellows — and Lamoriello met with reporters to discuss the quiet off-season and defend his decisions.
"There's no disappointment with where we're at because we feel very good about who we are, or we would've made drastic changes," Lamoriello said. "... Unfortunately, the options that we looked at, as I mentioned, to make hockey trades, we would not have gotten in return for what we had to give up to make us, in my opinion, a better team."
The GM added that he'll continue to listen to offers over the final weeks of the summer — "I think there's always an opportunity," he said — and with nearly half the league flirting with the salary cap ceiling, there could be options. But those trades likely won't be the earth-shattering moves many expected the Islanders to be involved in this summer.
And given the fact the club missed the playoffs by 16 points last year, will running it back under new head coach Lane Lambert lead to different results?
Lamoriello is prepared to find out.
"I'm actually really excited about the team that we have right now going into the season. So I feel very good. But if we could've gotten better, we would've done that," he said. "That's no different than throughout the season. But it's the price you have to pay to do something to upgrade in one position, then what do you do if the plusses and minuses don't work out? You've really downgraded your whole team."