Granted it is too early, or at least unfair, to judge a new general manager and regime on their first day. But with Lou Lamoriello’s first two external free agent signings all of my worst fears about putting him in control of the Islanders are in full effect.
On the evening of July 1 a funny thing was noticed by those reviewing the roster on the Islanders official site: Valtteri Filppula?
Turns out, yes, Valtteri Filppula. The free agent forward reached a one-year deal with the Islanders, reported by a few as $2.75 million.
Once upon a time, Filppula was an effective NHLer. No more.
He reached 25 goals back in 2013-14 with the Lightning. Last season at age 33-34 the Finn potted 11 goals for the Flyers, but his underlying stats showed essentially every single Flyer was better in minutes without him than with him. Barring a remarkable turnaround, his best days are too far behind him. He had a briefly hot start in 2017-18, and then everything cratered.
No seriously, it was bad. It portends bad things:
Filppula lagged well behind his teammates as evidence by his -7.4% Corsi relative, but was trusted with a ton of defensive deployment (53.1% defensive zone starts) by head coach Dave Hakstol. He didn’t fair well at even strength, with a -11 goal differential over the season. That echoed some of the concerns out of Tampa that he’d lost his skating legs and wasn’t viable as a top-six center anymore. His Corsi For of 44.48% all but confirmed that, marking the fourth-straight season he’s posted a Corsi For below 50%.
Add this alarming addition to the earlier signing of Leo Komarov for four years and a total of $12 million, and these are our concerns, Dude. (Please know that I’m not including the John Tavares saga in this; probably not Lamoriello’s fault and in any case, these issues are independent of that special case.)
Lamoriello’s reputation preceded him, and for many NHL observers — and many fans — that reputation was all about bring to the Isles a “grown up” and “culture leader” and “Stanley Cup winner,” a needed breath of fresh air. However, a look at the end of his tenure in New Jersey, and even trying to parse out what might have been his influence in Toronto in terms of player acquisitions, raised some real worries.
These worries remain.