Islanders’ Lou Lamoriello suggests changes could be on horizon for familiar group in 2024

New York Islanders’ Jean-Gabriel Pageau (44) celebrates with teammates after a goal by Anders Lee during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Some notable members of the New York Islanders’ foundation over the last 10 years might very well have played their final game with the franchise last week when the Carolina Hurricanes eliminated them in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said that “change is inevitable,” for a side that has been largely unchanged for the last four years — the Hall-of-Fame executive at times being accused of being too loyal to some of those players. In total, 16 members of the team that made the Eastern Conference Final in 2021 are still with the Islanders despite missing the playoffs in 2022 and getting bounced from the first round by the Hurricanes in each of the last two seasons.

“Whatever decisions have to be made that’s in the best interest of the team to have success, we will make,” Lamoriello said. “We have to take out of the equation the personal situations. We certainly love loyalty, but it can’t impede progress, so whatever decisions have to be made will be made.”

Lou Lamoriello Islanders
Lou Lamoriello (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

Veteran wingers Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck, who have spent the better part of the last decade together on the fourth line, are unrestricted free agents this summer with their futures very much up in the air. Both have not entertained the idea of retiring and stated their desires to remain Islanders. 

However, younger players like Simon Holmstrom, Hudson Fasching, and Kyle MacLean will be pushing for full-time roster spots next season and that fourth line could provide fits for them.

“It’s obvious when you look at the roster that there are some younger players coming in that demand more ice time,” Lamoriello said. “We will make whatever changes are necessary to get better. Are we satisfied where we are? Absolutely not. We’ll make whatever changes that we’re able to make to make this a better team.”

There are also larger contracts in their final years that could become logical trade candidates. Brock Nelson is coming off a third consecutive 30-goal season and has one year left on his deal. So does Kyle Palmieri, who posted his second-ever 30-goal season in 2023-24.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who has been a part of trade rumors in each of the previous two years, and captain Anders Lee have two years left on their contracts. They’ll make a combined $12 million annually — a sizable chunk of change for a team that has toed the salary cap ceiling.

“There’s nothing sacred,” Lamoriello said. “There’s nothing that won’t be done, but it does take two to make those changes and they’ll be made appropriately if the opportunity is there. But we’re not going to make a change for the sake of making a change.”

For more on the Islanders, visit AMNY.com