I’m not saying the Islanders have had the worst offseason in the league, but they are definitely the first team that comes to mind when I think of a team not having a good offseason. Starting with the draft, the Isles took a player in the first round that most people figured would go in the mid to late second round. Even the European scouts I talked to thought this kid was good, but not top 25 pick good. Maybe we’ll all be wrong and Simon Holmstrom will be one of those guys that shocks us all and we wonder how other teams missed him. Lou Lamoriello and David Conte’s history with 1st round Swedish forward prospects doesn’t fill me with confidence though. Looking at you; Niclas Bergfors, Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby.
Robin Lehner walked for free and ALLEGEDLY the team made no real effort to keep him. They replaced him with Semyon Varlamov. They gave Semyon Varlamov a 4 year deal worth an average annual value (AAV) of $5 Million, WITH A NO TRADE CLAUSE. Did anyone think this was a good deal? I honestly thought Varlamov would be KHL bound after the Avalanche parted ways with him. I thought that no NHL team was going to give him starter money, term and minutes, and that he would not accept relegation to backup duty and a backup’s salary. INSTEAD, Lou Lamoriello whipped out the checkbook and gave Varlamov a big payday and effectively made him the de facto starter. Why? He’s 31, so that’s not really too old for a goaltender, but he’s got some hard miles. His entire career has been a struggle for consistency. Sometimes he’s very good, sometimes he’s really not. But it’s not like he’s a young goaltender trying to find the consistency that comes with veterancy. This is who he is and who he’s going to be. I’m just not sure what the Islanders saw in him that made them say they had to have him at that term and dollar amount.
The Jordan Eberle signing was good and the contract amount they got him for might actually be a bit of a steal. ESPECIALLY when you compare it to Anders Lee and Brock Nelson. I know the optics of letting another Captain walk out on you would’ve been disastrous, but $7 million per year for the next 7 years is a steep price to pay to avoid disaster. The Brock Nelson contract is a little more than I thought they should have to pay for him, but I can stomach that because he’s younger, actually plays center and the contract carries him from age 27-32. Anders Lee is already 29. Anders Lee will be 36 when that deal is up. How many of these 50ish points per year guys carry that kind of effectiveness into their mid 30s? How many manage to carry it beyond the age of 32? The odds are not in the Islanders favor of that Anders Lee contract being a problem sooner rather than later. It’s like Lou looked at the Andrew Ladd contract on his books and said, “You know what…I want another one of those waiting for me a few years down the road.” I wonder how much the dollar amount of those contracts is related to the Islanders seeming to circle back around to Lee and Nelson after missing out on Artemi Panarin. How much of that $6 and $7 million is spite money?
Speaking of Panarin. Not only did the Islanders miss out on Panarin, but they got to watch him go across town to the Rangers. He wasn’t the only one. Much has been said about the acquisitions made by the Devils and the Rangers. Good things are also said about their prospect systems. Nobody is saying these things about the Islanders. That in and of itself becomes a strike against them this offseason. The late addition of Brassard gives them more options and depth at center, which was certainly a franchise need. But, it doesn’t alleviate the fact that none of the kids leftover from Garth Snow, that are still in the system, look like they’re ready to make substantial NHL impacts. I’m at the point where I wonder why the Isles even bothered keeping Ho-Sang and Dal Colle. Ho-Sang has talent but clearly is a culture clash with the team, while Dal Colle is just so underwhelming that it’s easy to forget he was a 5th overall pick. The Islanders finished 2nd in the Metropolitan Division in 2019. I don’t know if I think they’ve managed to get any better from that 2019 team. With seemingly everyone around them in their division getting better, it’s hard to picture the Islanders duplicating last season’s success, this year.