New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello had quite an opportunity to offload some expiring contracts and more expensive deals ahead of the NHL trade deadline on Monday afternoon.
With it, he could have positioned his team in a better spot heading into the offseason with a bit more salary-cap space and potentially some draft capital to use — whether at the actual selection process or on the trade market.
Instead, the Islanders stood pat, extending the contracts of two trade candidates in Cal Clutterbuck and Zach Parise while opting not to deal goaltender Semyon Varlamov alongside veteran defensemen Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara.
Varlamov is owed $5 million next season and had an abundance of interest, per Lamoriello. But he was deemed “very important” to the team given the premium on trusted goaltending around the NHL.
“He’s important to the growth and maturity of Ilya Sorokin,” he added. “Everyone is always looking for goaltenders and you don’t give up a goaltender to make another position better and make a bigger hole. You can make all these splashes in the world, but you have to look at the big picture.”
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As for Chara and Greene, both blueliners expressed their desire to stay with the Islanders through the end of the season and that the only way they would be dealt is if a “high-end asset to make us better,” came back in return. That obviously was not going to happen for a 44-year-old and 38-year-old defenseman.
Such actions suggest that Lamoriello is happy with the team that he has rather than shake things up. But the Hall-of-Fame executive assured us on Monday that such a notion is not the case.
“It appears to be a stand pat because we are satisfied. We are certainly not satisfied,” Lamoriello said. “I like the way our team has played the last couple of games. I think this is an indication of where we’re at after the turbulence we went through… to see who we are as a team. It’ll give us an indication of what we have to do.”
The Islanders have won five of their last seven games with points in six of them, but their playoff chances are under 1% heading into the final stretch of the regular season.
Rather than hoping for a push toward the postseason, Lamoriello sent a rather simple message to the team that he’ll be keeping a close eye on how they finish up this season now that there are no more COVID outbreaks, 13-game road trips, or injuries to contend with.
“We’ll find out one way or another [if this roster can cut it] by the end of the season,” he said.