An offseason shrouded in mystery is all but over as the New York Islanders prepare to open training camp on Thursday after a small September flurry of moves to round out its roster.
The team brought in veteran left-winger Zach Parise to take over on the third line alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom — a spot opening after the Islanders lost first-line right-winger Jordan Eberle to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft.
With the cap space cleared by Eberle’s departure and the trading away of both defenseman Nick Leddy and forward Andrew Ladd, the Islanders were able to bring back Kyle Palmieri to slot into Eberle’s spot.
Parise recently turned 37 years old and is coming off a career-worst season with the Minnesota Wild. But the veteran enters a team hungry to get back to the Stanley Cup semifinal and beyond — and the system in place could allow the gritty winger to rediscover his production not only on the third line but on the power play as a determined net-front presence.
“He can play in all situations,” Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said on Tuesday. “We feel what we’ve seen from him over the last couple of years — although he isn’t in his prime — he knows how to play the game. With the group we have, it will be a decided asset in terms of success.”
Elsewhere, to replace Leddy on the Islanders’ second defensive pair alongside Scott Mayfield, Lamoriello brought 44-year-old Zdeno Chara back to the team that drafted him 25 years ago just a day after signing Erik Gustafsson — a 29-year-old defenseman just two years removed from a 60-point season with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Early indications suggest that the 6-foot-9 Chara will get the nod while Gustafsson performs as more of a seventh defenseman.
“I think it’ll be an asset to our goaltenders as far as giving them a lot of vision, penalty killing, and his all-around presence,” Lamoriello said of Chara. “[Gustafsson] wanted to come knowing we had an opening with no promises.”
Lamoriello will hope that the veteran presences of Parise and Chara will be the last puzzle pieces to put the Islanders over the top. Parise captained the New Jersey Devils to an Eastern Conference crown in 2012 while Chara lifted the Stanley Cup as captain of the Boston Bruins in 2011.
“Both of these players bring a character about them,” Lamoriello said. “They’ve both been captains of teams, they’ve been high-character [players] as far as playing the game and the way they compete.
“The abilities that they still have, in my opinion, will certainly enhance what we have.”