The first day of free agency turned out to be a flop for the New York Islanders, who lost out on Johnny Gaudreau after he surprisingly chose to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Such events have turned up the heat just a bit more on general manager Lou Lamoriello as the fan base tries to sift through the rubble and figure out where they go from here.
We don’t have a crystal ball, but we’ll try to help.
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 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.
@jets_rebellion asks: No moves yesterday does that mean we’re tanking or who are the available options now?
That would be quite the dramatic drop-off if the Islanders went from trying to sign Johnny Gaudreau to make a run at the Stanley Cup to suddenly tanking. The team’s core is too veteran-laden and its defense/goaltending is too good to tank. You’d have to see a sudden firesale of prime assets to consider such an approach — and we all know that’s not happening. And that’s simply because this team is too good to be a bottom-five team in the NHL.
Given the way this team is constructed now, they’re a fringe playoff team at the very best in a loaded Metropolitan Division as long as they have a stable environment (normal schedule, no COVID outbreaks like last year). Add a scorer and they’re in business.
There are options aplenty, but the true difference-makers are more on the trade market than anything else. So that brings us to our next question…
@kschmann asks: Trade upgrade was always Plan A… so who is the target? Is anything salvageable with VAN (Conor Garland, JT Miller)? Or time to look elsewhere?
Lamoriello did tip his hand at the end of the season when he stressed the concept of “hockey trades” being the Islanders’ main avenue of upgrading. It would be safe to assume that they are at least re-visiting an inquiry with the Canucks about JT Miller, who is a free agent after this season and one of the cheaper options available.
But there are other big names that could potentially be on the trade market, though there are some dominoes that would have to fall correctly for them to be available. That includes the likes of Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrick Kane, and Patrik Laine, which you can read more about here.
@paffdaddy9: Dylan Strome?
He’s available, but do you want to spend a portion of your tight salary cap on a player that the Islanders already have an abundance of? Strome hasn’t scored more than 22 goals in a season, which came last year in an offensively-affluent Blackhawks team that has other talents to help him fly under the radar and get his numbers.
And those 48 points he had came while spending time centering a first line that boasted Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane. He won’t have that kind of offensive support on the Islanders.
So does New York need another 20-25 goal-scorer when they need a bona fide first-line winger to pair with Mathew Barzal? Not necessarily. It might serve the Isles best if they exhaust their other options before honing in on Strome.
@rocpaul76 asks: How come Lou isn’t addressing the media? And where are the owners in all of this?
Owners Scott Malkin and Jon Ledecky have basically given Lamoriello free reign in terms of calling the shots on hockey operations, so you won’t see them stepping in and forcing the Hall-of-Famer’s hand to spend more here or give up more there.
As to why he hasn’t addressed the media yet — he’s still working. No reason to make yourself available to the media when things could change in the coming days. Then he’ll have to deal with us all over again.