Welcome back to our Islanders mailbag where fans can reach out with their questions for amNewYork Sports editor and Islanders beat writer, Joe Pantorno.
Each week, we pick a handful of pressing topics to delve into in an attempt to provide some clarity that Islanders fans starve for during the summer months where information is at a premium and speculation is at an all-time time.
Want to be featured in the next Islanders mailbag? Tweet your questions to @JoePantorno.
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@coachjeff_24 asks: Is Johnny Gaudreau “the” player you move mountains for as this will require changing the face of the team (i.e. moving Josh Bailey and others)?
He certainly should be if that’s the direction that Lou Lamoriello wants to go in. The right offer and pitch lands you an elite scorer and playmaker to put on Mathew Barzal’s wing for years to come. Barzal, in turn, has no excuse in terms of proving that he can be a top-end, point-per-game kind of talent.
The Islanders haven’t had a player post 40 or more goals and 100 or more points in the same season since Pierre Turgeon in 1992-93. That drought has to end in order for the Islanders to take that next step — and that should mean making some notable changes to the existing roster for Gaudreau, who posted 40 goals and 115 points for Calgary last season.
@bill_fond asks: Is Alex Romanov bluffing with the KHL?
The best way to start this answer is by saying that I don’t know. The Islanders traded the No. 13 pick at the draft to Montreal for the 22-year-old defenseman’s restricted free agent rights. Reports came through on Monday, hours before the NHL’s 5 p.m. ET qualifying offer deadline that CSKA Moscow offered the blueliner a two-year deal.
Could it be a leak just to get a little extra cash out of the Islanders? Certainly. But CSKA needs some blue-line help and it has been reported that Romanov was in Russia as recently as last week. His agent, Daniel Milstein, would not comment to me on whether or not he is still in Russia but Kevin Kurz of The Athletic reported shortly after that his wife’s Instagram account shows the two in Miami.
Regardless, the Islanders should have no trouble extending a much better offer to Romanov where he can develop into a competent second-pairing defenseman.
@meltz86 asks: Do you think the Isles have any interest in bringing Nick Leddy back as LD3?
It would make sense if they did reunite with Leddy, who was with the Islanders from 2014-2021. He’s a proven puck-moving defenseman that could slot in right next to Scott Mayfield on the bottom unit rather than relying too much on Sebastian Aho or the young Robin Salo, who is projected to be a mainstay on New York’s blue line sooner rather than later.
He’d also provide a veteran option for a potential second pairing of Noah Dobson and Romanov should there be some growing pains to contend with.
That being said, we’ll find out if the Islanders are interested in Leddy after he signs.
@zmanisles asks: What does Zach Parise have left in the tank? Could he score 20 on Brock Nelson’s wing?
Apparently, Parise — who turns 38 on July 28 — has a ton left in the tank given the relentless motor he displayed as the Islanders’ most consistent forward (effort-wise) last season.
Even with a horrendous goal drought that saw him score just once in his first 33 games, he still ended the season with 15 goals while playing on every line and in every situation. With consistency and a goal-scoring center like Nelson working with him, 20 goals wouldn’t be out of the question.
However, Lamoriello must construct a roster that should not have Parise anywhere near the second line. That means getting an elite first-line left-winger to put next to Barzal which would allow Anders Lee to flex down to the second line. Having Parise on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Bailey or Beauvillier (the latter would have to shift to the right side), seems like a sweet spot for the vet.
@Lauruska asks: What percentage of Isles fans’ heads explode if Lou comes up bupkis on a scoring forward in free agency?
Hopefully, no one’s head explodes because it’s only hockey and there are more important things in your life other than this.
That doesn’t mean that fans would not have a right to be upset. The Islanders have made the Stanley Cup semifinals two of the last three seasons, have a state-of-the-art arena, have one of the best young goaltenders and blue lines in the league, and an ownership group that seems dedicated to winning.
This organization should be a destination for big-name free agents and it’s up to Lamoriello to connect the dots and make that happen. The last thing Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin need is UBS Arena half full because the Islanders can’t make it through the gauntlet that will be the Metropolitan Division.
So — this is me just speculating — the 2022-23 season should be Lamoriello’s last chance to get the Islanders back into the thick of the Stanley Cup conversation. For that to happen, a big splash needs to be made.
Heads exploding? No.
Disgruntled fan base whose butts need to be in the seats? Yes.