After the New York Islanders made zero external moves at the NHL’s 2019 trade deadline, general manager spoke to reporters to reflect on what (hadn’t) transpired.
It’s nothing new. It’s the same language you heard from Garth Snow each year (minus a little “we are always trying to improve our team, no stone unturned” etc.). It’s what you hear from every NHL GM after their team makes no moves at this time of year.
So Lou’s post-deadline verbiage is in no way a surprise. A sampling:
You have to be extremely careful at this time, because whenever you add somebody, it takes away from someone else who moves into a different spot. In our opinion, whatever we potentially could have done would not have been the best thing. We weren’t going to do something just for the sake of doing something.
The full scrum:
Likewise, you know that even if — a big IF — the Islanders were really close on any of their targets, Lamoriello wasn’t going to say that. He was going to come into the day saying he’s happy with his team; he was going to end the team saying he’s happy with his team, however it looked.
All that said, another bit you hear every year at this time of the season, coming from external sources, is also in play: Reporters say the Islanders were “active,” very much “in on” several of the highly sought players who moved around the league, but just couldn’t get it done for whatever reason. (Usually: either price too high, or the trading team preferred a different team’s assortment of prospects and picks.)
For example, one of the best pieces went to Vegas and an extension: Mark Stone, who’d have looked great with the Islanders and Barry Trotz, agreed to a reported max-term (eight years) extension with the Golden Knights as part of his escape from the Senators. The prospect the Senators got back, Erik Brannstrom, is roughly comparable to the Islanders’ top defensive prospect, Noah Dobson, at least in terms of what the Islanders might have had to give up. (Vegas also traded Oscar Lindberg and a 2020 second-round draft pick to the Senators.)
Reportedly the Islanders were indeed trying to land Stone with an extension, but their extension was not as high an AAV as what Vegas offered:
Told the Islanders were very seriously pursuing Stone and wanted an extension in place - told AAV was less than VGK agreement. Beauvillier as part of discussions.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) February 25, 2019
Stone didn’t have a no-trade clause, but his willingness to sign an extension (or not) could effectively act like one, or at least act like a “choose your own destination” clause.
You can believe that or not believe it, I’m certainly not telling advocating one way or the other. Just putting it out here for posterity.
For now, it’s just another year where the Islanders headed into the deadline with some high hopes from fans, ultimately ending in “they were close or could have had except/but...”
The difference this year is that they are in a surprising first place, have some real playoff potential, and have an easily identifiable need — offense — that was available in plentiful if occasionally expensive or short-term supply at the deadline.
For Islanders fans, the 2018-19 edition went from low expectations in the fall to playing with house money that in turn fueled really high expectations. Now, a quiet deadline returns the needle to “playing with house money.”
Among that house money, as Lamoriello pointed out — like you knew he would — is the return of Thomas Hickey and Andrew Ladd, which should help, even if it only serves to ensure that Tom Kuhnhackl and Luca Sbisa or Dennis Seidenberg (now signed for real) do not get prominent ice time. They are going to live and die by what got them this far. (Also among that house money, should they bother to use it: Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang. Just saying.)
But if the 2018-19 Islanders are a team of “character” and clearly identified roles that thrives on “chemistry” as much as talent, they’d best at least select the most talented able-bodied options within that structure every night from here forward.