As the July 1st free agent frenzy came to a close, the New York Islanders are still in a good place. As much as fans do not want to believe it.
“Another July 1st, and the Isles didn’t do anything”
“Where’s the billboard for Lou?!”
Those just a couple tweets of many with the same theme that I saw floating around our favorite cesspool we lovingly refer to as, “IslesTwitter”.
Let me first start by saying – it’ll be ok – It’s literally the first day of free agency.
Lou Lamoriello made his intentions known from the get-go regarding wanting to bring back all of his available UFA’s (unrestricted free agents).
Brock Nelson – check.
Jordan Eberle – check.
Anders Lee – check.
Robin Lehner – swing-and-a-miss.
Lou shot 3-for-4 on that promise. I’ll get into the “miss” in a little bit.
The Islanders had one major player that they had their sites on in the off-season. Mister Artemi Panarin.
— Anders Lee (@leeberr09) July 1, 2019
Artemi Panarin would have definitely been the game-changer that they’ve coveted for the past few years. That can’t be argued.
The fact that he turned down the most money, with term at the end of the day From the New York Islanders should make you feel at least a little better.
Let’s assume the rumors and numbers are accurate (but let’s be honest, who knows?!), Islanders ownership and management were willing to throw $12.5-million per year, over a 7 year period to a single-player who would’ve immediately changed the outlook of the roster.
Lamoriello was in the Panarin stakes until the end – potentially sacrificing face with it’s own captain in the process.
Anders Lee’s agent, Neil Sheehy, would put out a statement about his client never wanting to talk to other teams, and was planning on returning with-or-without Panarin. Many claim this was damage control – I prefer to believe it.
Lee’s always said he wanted to come back.
Lehner Signs With Chicago
Here’s where you’ll see a ton of mixed feelings from fans.
Granted, Robin Lehner was a fan favorite. He managed to face his demons head- on and put up a season that will always be remembered. For his efforts, he earned his way in to become a Vezina finalist, and a Jennings winner alongside Thomas Greiss.
There have been grumbling of the contract talks, most of which makes it look like the Islanders have subsequently forced Lehner out.
Overall, I don’t agree with these feelings.
Filtering through all of the radio noise – here’s what I perceive happened. None of this has been confirmed 100%, and anyone who tells you otherwise (unless their name is Lamoriello or Lehner) is subsequently – lying.
Lehner (and/or his agent) were pressing for term, which the Islanders weren’t willing to provide. All reports point the Isles offering a shorter term (about 2 years) at an AAV anywhere from $2.5-million to $3.5-million per.
Having all the rights in the world to attempt to cash in on a career year, Lehner was looking for somewhere in the neighborhood of $5-million per (as assumed with what he ended up getting in Chicago).
Keeping in mind that in reality, even with 15-months of sobriety, Robin is still considered a potential liability, and I can understand the Islanders stance on this. As cold as it may sound, it is a fact of the sports business world – players are an investment and a commodity.
Now, playing into this is the ole’ Sorokin-situation that is currently in progress.
Coincidentally, Ilya Sorokin (the highly touted KHL goalie who has one year left on his Russian contract) and Semyon Varlamov happen to share the same agent, Paul Theofanous.
Looking long-term (I know fans, when’s it going to end?!), bringing in Varlamov could be a move to help initiate the Sorokin courting to finally get him over in the most comfortable case possible. Greiss’ contract is up after this upcoming season, Isles sign Varlamov for 4 years, with a no-trade clause for the first two… Sorokin’s KHL contract running out after next season… All the dots are there for the connecting.
We cannot forget Lou Lamoriello’s underlying MO with each franchise he’s been involved with.
Get a number one goalie (one that he has complete faith in) locked up long term, and build from there. He did it in New Jersey, and did it again in Toronto. Looks like he’s doing it again in New York – and Ilya Sorokin is officially THAT GUY pending anything weird happening. Whether or not it’s the right decision remains to be seen.
They’re Not Finished This Off-Season
So, Lou missed on Panarin, but the mission remains intact to add the scoring punch in the top-6 that is desperately needed. The ultimate negative being that it’s looking like Lamoriello and company are going to need to get a little creative in doing that now with the quick fix nixxed.
The cap space is still there. This could also be increased with the dealing of a couple assets. Rumors continue to float around that Nick Leddy ($5.5m aav) and Thomas Hickey ($2.5m aav) are being shopped around. You can thank the positive development of Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews, Scott Mayfield, and the solid defensive depth currently in the system for that luxury.
The offer sheet opportunity is there, but it’s one of those options that I’ll believe it when I see it.
Recently, some info came to light regarding a potential Mitch Marner offer sheet. It’s looking like Marner “wants his cake and eat it too”. With the salary cap rumored to increase again in about 2 years, word on the streets is that the Marner camp is only looking for a maximum 2 to 3 year term for any offer sheet. It’s already been noted that Marner essentially wants Auston Matthews money (about $11.6m-plus AAV).
The problem being that for an offer sheet to come across at that price range, that would cost the offering team four first-round draft picks. If Marner is only willing to sign for a three-year term – well, that wouldn’t make it worth the headache (and potential blacklisting of other GMs across the league).
The wheels continue to spin in the front office of the New York Islanders. Don’t expect to hear about anything until it’s literally happening.
Those are Lou’s rules.
Follow/trash me on Twitter – @brasqo