There’s quite a thick cloud of uncertainty revolving around the New York Islanders as their 2023 offseason is in its infancy.
Neither general manager Lou Lamoriello nor head coach Lane Lambert have spoken to provide any clarity on their futures while the team has numerous moves to make in order to create more of a legitimate playoff contender.
Here are a few early predictions before the offseason this summer really heats up.
Lou Lamoriello and Lane Lambert are back
When it comes to making Lamoriello and Lambert available for their exit interviews, it’s been all quiet from the Islanders, who had their locker cleanout day two weeks ago and made every player available in the process.
While that might suggest that something could be brewing in terms of a leadership change, it would be surprising to actually see that happen. Co-owner Jon Ledecky has maintained his trust in the Hall-of-Fame executive and will likely do what’s necessary to ensure he holds onto the reins of the organization for as long as he wants them.
As for Lambert, the first-year head coach got the Islanders back to the playoffs after missing out in 2021-22 — and he did so despite a slew of injuries and with a roster that continues to raise more questions than answers. To make a second coaching change in as many years wouldn’t do much to build continuity within the franchise. `
Josh Bailey’s run ends
The longest-tenured Islander will see his run with the franchise come to an end after getting scratched down the stretch and for the entire playoffs. He indicated his dissatisfaction with the team and Lambert, saying that he won’t be watching from the stands again next season. With one year and $5 million left on his deal, the Islanders will try to find a team to take most of his contract but if they can’t, a buyout will have to be the move. It would cost New York $2,3 million and save it roughly $1.16 million.
Zach Parise re-signs
Parise remains undecided on his NHL future at 38 years old, but it certainly appears as though he has plenty left in the tank. For a second consecutive season with the Islanders, he played in all 82 games, scoring 21 goals with 13 assists as an invaluable winger who can play on any of the four lines, penalty kill, and power play.
During his exit interview, he said that he re-fell in love with the game of hockey during his time with the Islanders and loves playing for Lamoriello — the man who drafted him two decades ago. So it didn’t come as much of a surprise when he said that he believes his NHL future is “here [with the Islanders] or nowhere.”
The fourth line changes
For an Islanders team that could use the cap space, the contracts of Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck — who combine to make over $3 million next season — could be looked at. Especially because Hudson Fasching emerged as a legitimate option to work next to Casey Cizikas moving forward. It would be a difficult concept to grasp for Islanders fans considering the trio of Cizikas, Martin, and Clutterbuck have spent the majority of the last decade together as the best of soldiers. However, for a team in need of an injection of more skill and speed, it’s something that is going to happen sooner rather than later.
Semyon Varlamov returns
Varlamov has maintained that he wants to return to the Islanders, even if that means getting back-up playing time and pay. The Islanders need to lock down Ilya Sorokin to a long-term deal, which means they can’t spend too much money on the veteran netminder. If he’s looking for a bump in time in the crease and more pay with it, he won’t be short of suitors.
Pierre Engvall stays
A career year for the winger, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Toronto Maple Leafs, should generate plenty of interest from the Islanders to work something out. Put together with Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri, Engvall was a part of the team’s most productive line across the final two months of the season and playoffs. Getting full seasons of the trio should be something the Islanders want to see.
The kids will push
At just 22 years old, plenty of focus will be directed toward Oliver Wahlstrom, who will be recovered from a severe knee injury that ended his season in December. The 22-year-old right-winger will be spending the offseason developing his game as more of a power forward to complement his plus shot — which could have him in the running for a top-six spot.
But there are more youngsters that could make a push for opening-night spots, even if Lamoriello isn’t one to play his younger prospects often.
William Dufour got a very brief taste of the NHL out of necessity this season and struggled in the two-way department, prompting a benching from Lambert and a swift demotion. But there’s no denying his ability to create offense. He scored 21 goals with 27 assists in 69 games with the AHL Islanders as a 21-year-old.
Matthew Maggio will also be another name to watch after a brilliant campaign with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, posting 54 goals and 57 assists (111 points) in 66 games. He was named the junior league’s most outstanding player Ą an honor which has been won over the last 10 years by the likes of Connor McDavid, Mitch Marner, and Alex DeBrincat.
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