In a detailed piece for The Athletic, Arthur Staple talks to New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello and fills the gaps in some of the latest rumors surrounding the team. While much of the discussion is on players who could push for roles with the Isles next season, the main topic is regarding a player whose role is already a lock – if he’s healthy that is. Staple writes that veteran forward Cal Clutterbuck has already undergone off-season surgery, after revealing following the team’s playoff exit that he had been playing through several back injuries, including slipped discs, rotated vertebrae, and a stress fracture. Facing either a regiment of rest and rehab in hopes the pain would subside or instead invasive surgery for a more permanent solution, Clutterbuck chose the later and went under the knife late last month. Lamoriello states that doctors hoped the surgery would still leave Clutterbuck enough time to recuperate before training camp, but there is some doubt. One way or another, it will be close and the physical forward likely won’t be at full strength for the start of the preseason. With Andrew Ladd already expected to miss the start of next season, New York hopes to have Clutterbuck ready for the season opener and Lamoriello expects that to be the case, but it will be a process worth monitoring this summer and into the fall.
- Lamoriello confirmed to Staple that polarizing forward Joshua Ho-Sang will be back with the Islanders next season. A restricted free agent, Ho-Sang requires a qualifying offer to remain Isles’ property and Lamoriello and company will give him just that. Beyond a QO, the GM would not guarantee anything else for Ho-Sang though. Lamoriello said that the 2014 first-round pick, who played in just ten games with New York this season, will “be in camp and like all the young players, he’ll determine his future.” If Ho-Sang refuses to sign his qualifying offer or does so and then becomes unhappy with his role again next season, he will be a prime trade candidate for the Islanders.
- One young player who won’t be in camp and likely won’t don an Islanders jersey at all next season is Russian goaltender Ilya Sorokin. Sorokin, 23, has been dominating the KHL for four years now as arguably the best goalie in the league. There is little doubt that he will find success when he does make the jump to the NHL. However, he still has a year remaining on his contract with CSKA Moscow and Lamoriello reports that this makes it next to impossible for him to come over before the end of next season. Yet, the two sides stay in constant contact about the possibilities. “There’s certainly dialogue all the time, but he does have a contract so there are extenuating circumstances. He’s someone we’d love to have come over as soon as possible.” With Sorokin not an option for next season, the Islanders still have a tough decision to make in net, with Vezina Trophy candidate Robin Lehner hitting free agency and in search of a long-term deal.
- Lamoriello and the Islanders are understandably excited by the development of 2018 first-round pick Noah Dobson, who just won his second consecutive Memorial Cup and Memorial Cup All-Star nod. The well-rounded defenseman seems ready for the pros and Lamoriello specifically said that he “can’t get any higher in junior hockey than he’s gotten.” Dobson will be given the chance to break camp with the Islanders, but unfortunately for him he may have a disadvantage again fellow top defensive prospect Bode Wilde. As a teenage Canadian junior player, Dobson is ineligible to play in the AHL next season and would need to be returned to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL if he does not stick with the Islanders. Wilde, a second-round pick last year, also plays Canadian junior but was drafted out of the U.S. junior system and thus faces a different set of AHL eligibility rules. If Wilde, who is also coming off a strong season, shows well in camp, he could be the preferred prospect to stick based on that two-way flexibility. With the Islanders’ depth on defense, it’s hard to see either player having a major role in New York next season regardless, but the team could opt to deal from a position of strength this off-season to open up space for either Dobson or Wilde to have a shot at regular ice time next season.