The New York Islanders are not in the business of stealing headlines.
They won’t steal the show when it comes to making a marquee signing or a blockbuster trade — instead, president and general manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz have continued to sift through the proverbial box for the perfect puzzle pieces in hopes of creating a Stanley Cup-winning side.
Lamoriello navigated the offseason and a salary-cap crunch as well as anyone could have imagined. He traded the bloated contracts of Nick Leddy and Andrew Ladd while leaving first-line right-winger Jordan Eberle exposed in the expansion draft to be taken by the Seattle Kraken.
“When the summer began, we had a plan,” Lamoriello said Wednesday. “Certainly, it was to try and sign as many of our players as we wanted to have back. Once we were able to do that, it was to see where our cap was and the potential transactions that could take place with other teams.”
With that freed-up cash, the Islanders retained winger Kyle Palmieri and fourth-line engine Casey Cizikas, struck new deals for second-liner Anthony Beauvillier, No. 1 defenseman Adam Pelech, and the goalie of the future in Ilya Sorokin.
With what was left, Lamoriello made low-budget, calculated signings in veteran winger Zach Parise and 44-year-old defenseman Zdeno Chara to fill the roster spots left vacant by the Eberle and Leddy departures.
Parise will slot in on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and the 21-year-old Oliver Wahlstrom — an in-house promote — while Palmieri will take over on the first line where Eberle once skated.
For Chara, he not only rounds out a stout Islanders defense, but he is the next invaluable mentor for 21-year-old defenseman Noah Dobson, who spent last season learning from 38-year-old Andy Greene.
Pair the acquisitions of Parise and Chara — former All-Stars and team captains — with the existing core of a team that has made two straight Stanley Cup semifinal appearances, and the Islanders are on the precipice of making another push toward their first championship in 39 years.
“We’re a four-line team and right now, this is the deepest team we’ve had here as far as the differential of the talent from top to bottom,” Lamoriello said. “We feel very good. But once again, we have to go out and perform.”
Captain Anders Lee is healthy on the first line where he and Palmieri should score over 25 goals; especially with the playmaking dynamism of Mathew Barzal. Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier should do the same on the second line while the third unit features a blend of grit and finesse — a testament to the evolving nature of Pageau’s play.
After nearly a decade together, the book has been out for quite a while on the fourth line. Cizikas, Matt Martin, and Cal Clutterbuck provide the energy and backbone of a team that stresses its blue-collar work ethic.
“As players, we feel the same way,” Lee said. “We know what kind of group we are… Now it’s time to put it all together.”