The New York Islanders have signed 27-year-old winger Matt Lorito to a two-year contract that represents a significant investment in their AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers as well as a new candidate for the NHL roster.
Lorito is a fourth-year pro forward who signed with New Jersey (yep) out of Brown in 2015, then went on to Detroit in 2016. He has 171 points in 202 AHL games plus another 20 points in 30 AHL playoff games.
Two aspects of this make it interesting, beyond a typical AHL signing by the Isles (and another addition with Devils and NCAA roots).
For one...the Islanders simply don’t have players in Bridgeport who average .85 points per game in the AHL. This is a new level of acquisition, probably reflecting one of the new regime’s priorities to invest in a better farm team. (Lou Lamoriello is coming from the Leafs, where they’ve invested heavily to build the AHL’s top team. Barry Trotz comes from the Capitals, who have historically had a strong supply line from the AHL.)
The second aspect is, to get quality you must pay, and Lorito’s contract looks significant. According to CapFriendly, it’s $400,000 at the AHL level in 2018-19 (a $125,000 raise over his previous deal with the Red Wings/Grand Rapids), and it goes up to a $700,000 one-way (so, same rate at AHL and NHL level) deal in 2019-20, unprecedented for a player expected to primarily be used at Bridgeport.
Which means this will upgrade the Sound Tigers, but also that Lorito will have a shot at making the NHL roster or contributing significantly as a callup if conditions change. The second year of the deal virtually assumes he’ll be in the NHL or else will pay him that rate regardless.
Lorito is 27 and listed at 5’9, one reason he may be overlooked despite impressive production going back to his NCAA days. It’s not an exciting deal — fans typically meet all AHL-level signings around July 1 with derision, even more so in the wake of The Departure — but it’s an upgrade for Bridgeport and may prove useful for the big club too.