New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello understands his team’s identity and isn’t willing to stray away from it — even if it meant coming up completely empty on acquiring a high-scoring winger in both the free-agent and trade markets.
The 79-year-old finally broke his silence after a dormant summer — his only prize to show being the acquisition of young defenseman Alex Romanov from the Montreal Canadiens — to officially announce the signings of restricted free agents Romanov, Noah Dobson, and Kieffer Bellows.
“As we said at the end of last year, if we could upgrade any part of our lineup, we would certainly do that,” Lamoriello said. “Like every other team in the NHL, there’s constant communication to try and do that. We looked at many different options, unfortunately, the options we looked at to make hockey trades, we would have not gotten the return for what we would have had to give up, in my opinion, to make us a better team.”
So the Islanders appear to be prepared to run back a largely identical roster of the team that missed the playoffs last season while a majority of the Metropolitan Division managed to get better.
“I’m really excited about the team we have going into the season right now. I feel very good,” Lamoriello continued. “If we could’ve gotten better, we would’ve done that.”
Speculation points to an inability to clear cap space to make legitimate runs at the likes of Johny Gaudreau or even Nazem Kadri. That meant potentially trying to part ways with the likes of veteran forward Josh Bailey or goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
Losing either, at least to Lamoriello, would have been too big a loss to try and replace for the team’s defensive philosophy. Instead, the plan is to keep the core together for first-year head coach Lane Lambert, who has the intimidating responsibility of trying to fill Barry Trotz’s shoes.
“Lane is his own person. Lane worked with Barry for a number of years and we all know Barry is a great coach,” Lamoriello said. “What Lane takes from Barry and what Lane had the opportunity to observe and whatever changes I feel he will make, I feel it will make us a better team. We will be a little more offensive but we will not give up defense.
“Our team is built a certain way. I don’t apologize for it. It starts with our goaltending, goes through our defense, and to our forwards. I’m a goal differential type of person. You win hockey games by scoring more goals. It doesn’t matter how many. It’s the differential that allows that to happen.”