After a tough sweep at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round, right after they impressed everyone by sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, there remain many questions surrounding the New York Islanders and in what direction general manager Lou Lamoriello will go this off-season. They have multiple key free agent forwards that could hit the open market in July, including forwards Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson.
Newsday’s Andrew Gross makes his predictions on who is staying or going and is quick to point out that it’s likely that Lamoriello may only keep one of their three top-six free agent forwards. The question is whether he can get Lee to agree to take a little less to remain with the team. Gross believes that Lee would ask for six years at $6MM per, which Lamoriello might agree to, but both Eberle and Nelson could ask for similar amounts and if one of them opts to take less, that may be who ends up staying.
- With tons of cap space and multiple key free agents of their own, the team must decide whether they intend to re-sign some of those players as well as whether they intend to dip into free agency and go after some bigger fish. What the team needs to do is find a way to sign Robin Lehner to cement their goaltending situation, according to Emily Kaplan and Chris Peters of ESPN (subscription required). Lehner, who has become a fan favorite in New York after an incredible season, is needed in New York with Thomas Greiss down to his last year on his contract. Lehner and Greiss combined to win the Jennings Trophy, while Lehner is also a finalist for the Vezina Trophy after putting up 25 wins, a 2.13 GAA, and a .930 save percentage during the regular season. Despite many who feel that Lehner failed in the playoffs, his numbers were still even better in the playoffs, posting a 2.00 GAA and a .936 save percentage. He was a bargain at $1.5MM, but will need a big raise this summer if the Islanders want to keep him.
- Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post writes that what Lamoriello needs to find this summer is more high-impact scorers who can help with head coach Barry Trotz’s grinding defense. Like in Washington, Trotz’ defensive system relies on high-end forwards who can get opportunistic goals, which the team struggled to do in the second round of the playoffs. Trotz, however, believes there is talent in their system, which might be ready to supplement the team. “We knew that we were a little bit lean in some of the high-skill positions, but we have some good kids coming,” Trotz said.
- With the Islanders eliminated, that could open up some coaching opportunity for associate coach Lane Lambert, according to The Athletic’s Scott Burnside (subscription required). The 54-year-old Lambert has been a long-time assistant to Trotz and might be one of the top assistant coaches ready to make the transition to the head coaching position. He has been key to game planning and practices and has been a critical part of the team’s penalty kill unit.