Just in case there is some ambiguity about how he sees the game, Lou Lamoriello said on Saturday afternoon that it was first and foremost the goalkeeper who provided the foundation for his success. Declared.
The eight-year, $66 million extension to Ilya Sorokin starting in 2024-25 and the four-year, $11 million deal to keep free agent Semyon Varlamov are the latest reflections of the Islanders’ general manager’s philosophy. It’s nothing more than a thing.
He repeated himself.
“That was my philosophy, that was my past,” Lamoriello said. “From studying the league and seeing different teams that may have (and didn’t) succeed, I believe so.”
Lamoriello believes the current Islanders team, which was eliminated in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs, can still succeed. That’s why they also left two other players free to test the market: defensemen Scott Mayfield (7 years, $24.5 million) and Pierre Engvall (7 years, $21 million). Only Zach Palise, who is returning or retiring with the Islanders, and Oliver Wahlstrom, a restricted free agent under team management, have yet to be reassigned from the club.
Lamoriello has mentioned several times in recent weeks that he wanted to unite the band. But for that to happen, all four players signed on Saturday may have too long contracts.
Conversely, it arguably lowered their annual average to a manageable number for a team with a tight salary cap. Mayfield’s salary was expected to be in the $4 million to $5 million range, but he’s too high for a third pair defenseman, so his $3.5 million would be reasonable in the short term. Engvall’s $3 million AAV could also have been higher had he been on a short-term deal, and he was a good fit after being acquired from Toronto in March.
Lamoriello called what the 30-year-old Mayfield brought to his team “unprecedented” in terms of physicality and penalty-killing prowess, but he’s known the 27-year-old Engvall since he was Toronto’s general manager. I am a player and I believe that. “He just keeps getting better.”
“You kind of make a decision to hold AAV down on how a player is today in the first few years of their contract and how they are in the second half of their contract,” Lamoriello said. Told. “Try to have manageable numbers on both sides.”
Lamoriello admitted that July 1 was the first day the Vezina Cup finalist extension was announced, so Sorokin’s deal was quickly finalized. Securing the 27-year-old franchise goalkeeper before he enters the final season of his contract has always been a top priority.
“I don’t want a player of his height going into the final year of his contract,” Lamoriello said. “I think it’s a lot of pressure for a player. There’s going to be a lot of pressure from the media on what his thoughts are, etc. …It’s a distraction when the season is right. This doesn’t bother anyone.”
Varlamov was content to be a good friend and number two among his compatriots, and had a strong desire to remain with the islanders. And while he’s still a good enough goalkeeper, who will probably be the best backup goalie in the NHL once the season starts, Varlamov is also 35. That means he will be 39 by the time his new contract expires.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better player than Varley in the way he takes care of his body, how he prepares for training every day, how he takes care of himself after practice and after games,” Lamoriello said. said. “He may be 35, but I’ve seen a lot of 26- and 27-year-olds who wish they had a body like him.”
As a result, the Islanders’ roster remains unchanged since the end of the 2022-23 season.
“I thought the players wanted to come back,” Lamoriello said. I am happy to have achieved that. “
So, with a salary cap of just over $1 million and a deal with Parise and Wahlstrom still pending, Lamoriello can’t put his feet up and ring the phone, waiting for training camp to start in September. can.
It’s kind of surprising… no. And while it may be a nightmare for some Islanders fans who remember last summer’s low activity, Lamoriello said a “hockey trade” could be on the horizon. clearly suggested. This was basically promised a year ago, but didn’t come to fruition until January 31, when Bo Horbatt’s takeover took place.
“We signed free agency with the money we had, and now it’s going to be a hockey trade to get better as everyone strives,” Lamoriello said. “I think we’ll see a similar situation across the National Hockey League in the next day or so.”
Prior to Saturday afternoon’s news release (announcing the signing of all four players in a text message at 4:47pm), the Islanders buzz came to Alex Devlincat and the team’s interest in signing the talented winger. about what was reported.
According to Bruce Garriock of the Ottawa Sun, the Islanders, Capitals, Stars and Predators have been pondering the 25-year-old, who is now a restricted free agent. Meanwhile, the Capitals have acquired forward Max Pacioletti, the Stars have acquired free agent winger Matt Duchene, while the Predators led by Barry Trots have signed center Ryan O’Reilly and winger Gustav Nyquist. , Transferred in rapid succession.
Garriock later added that terminology is key here, and that “Devlin Cat’s representatives have been given permission to discuss terminology with several teams.” It turned out that he could not get the kind of terms Ottawa offered. “
In fact, if the Islanders are in talks with the Senators about Devlin Catt, it’s easy to see why they’re reluctant to give the winger a long-term contract, especially after adding another 26 years worth of contracts on Saturday. can. Even if Devlin Cat mandates, say, $8 million to $9 million a year and hopes for at least six or seven years, even if the salary cap is set to rise significantly in 2024-25, the Islanders would not leave much flexibility for the future.
There is also the question of whether DeBrincat is worth paying that much for. After scoring 41 and 78 goals in 82 games in 2021-22 with Chicago, he slipped to 27 and 66 goals in 82 games last season.
A league insider who watched Devlin Catt play a lot in Ottawa last season spoke about the strengths and weaknesses of his game.
“I think it took him a while to get used to the[senator’s]system,” the source said. “Maybe it was a little more structured than he was playing in Chicago. But he got bitten by a snake. He’d get chances, but he couldn’t score. Later in the year, There were times when he lost confidence.But he worked hard.He tried to be aggressive in forechecks and everything.”
The Senators added Tim Stutzl, Brady Tkachuk and Claude Giroud to the top line in the second half, leaving Devlincat to play with lower-ranked players in the second line. Devlin Catt’s shooting percentage was also down about 5 percentage points last season, suggesting he may have had some bad luck.
“He’s playing behind Brady Tkachuk. That’s the bottom line,” the source continued. “What if he played with Stützle? I don’t know. That’s a different scenario. … He wasn’t playing with Patrick Kane anymore.
“At the same time, do you need someone to drive the $9 million line (if you’re getting paid) or should he drive the line?” That’s a valid point. But conversely, the most difficult thing in the league is scoring goals. If he scores you 40 goals, you pay him ($8-9 million). That’s the objection. “
Of course, the Islanders would have to move money to get Devlin Cat. And, as several others did on Saturday, the winger will likely be looking to sign a one-year deal before cashing in next summer when the salary cap is set to rise.
Former Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pajot (and reaching a $5 million salary cap in the next three seasons) is the player most likely to move. Assuming Barzal leaves, the Islanders have four NHL centers in addition to Horvat, Brock Nelson and Matthew Barzal. After playing on the right flank for Horvat before an injury in February and in the play-offs, he has returned to central.
Placing Devlin Cat alongside Balzal would certainly help beef up the Islanders’ offense as well as a crappy power play.
“Balzal, the way you hold the puck…if Devlin Cat is on the ice with Balzal, you will have scoring chances,” said the source.
Only time will tell if Lamoriello has a dance partner this time around.
“I’m going to do everything I can to do every deal to make the company better,” he said. “As we always say, it takes two people, but we’re certainly open to the hockey deal.”
(Photo by Semyon Varlamov and Scott Mayfield: Jonathan Kozub / NHLI via Getty Images)
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