When the dust settled after Monday afternoon’s NHL trade deadline, the New York Islanders were in the rare position of having acquired their top target and convinced him — instantly — to sign with the team for six years, site unseen. They were also in the mix for a still-effective player who probably never would’ve waived his no-trade clause to come to the Islanders before the changes made in the last year and a half.
These — the acquisition of Jean-Gabriel Pageau and the near-trade for Zach Parise — reflect a new era for the Isles. Say what one will about Lou Lamoriello’s approach to roster building in 2020 (and we’ve said plenty), but this is a case where the credibility of Lamoriello and his best acquisition, coach Barry Trotz, made a big difference.
To recap the last few weeks:
- Lifetime Devil and captain Andy Greene waived his no-trade clause to come to the Islanders, and fit right in, serving the need created by Adam Pelech’s season-ending injury. Again: a lifer on another team waived his NTC to join the Islanders.
- Pageau welcomed the trade to the Islanders, signed a six-year extension, and cited the upcoming Belmont arena and the team’s reputation as reasons for both. That is not something that has happened in the modern era. “I have heard only good things about the Islanders,” Pageau said in his initial presser via conference call. “To have the chance to be joining the team, it’s such an honor for me.”
- Lou Lamoriello’s reputation coaxed Zach Parise to waive his no-trade clause, reportedly, to come to the Islanders. “His preferred destination has always been the Islanders,” Michael Russo reported. It didn’t happen in the end, though that sounds like it was due to the “complicated” nature of a long-term, back-diving contract that carries baggage like cap recapture if Parise retires early. Again: His preferred destination has always been the Islanders.
This is not normal.
If you’re an Islanders fan of any vintage, this is the first time you’ve really heard something like this. Even in their glory dynasty days, the Islanders were an admired on-ice team with an admired coach and general manager, but they were a team with a looming arena issue and a succession of owners who did not have deep pockets.
“We haven’t seen Lou do his Lou thing, since he first arrived and hired Barry Trotz,” Mike Leboff said during his and Dan Saraceni’s post-deadline Islanders Anxiety podcast. Now we’re seeing it.
Lou, meanwhile, was pleased to identify and land players like Greene and Pageau that pretty much everyone believes fit the Islanders identity.
And let’s not forget, last weekend we all witnessed a longtime fan favorite truly come back into the fold when John Tonelli’s number was retired, and Tonelli repeatedly pointed out how it wouldn’t have happened without owner Jon Ledecky, and how lucky the franchise is to have a success-minded owner like that.
The Islanders don’t have an ideal roster, but no one ever does in the cap world. It’s hard to evaluate what a Parise addition would do without knowing the details. Regardless, the Islanders now have a roster that is built to serve their idea of how to win, and a coach who is among the best at delivering on that. So now, in the near-term, they have a chance each season. That’s new, and quite welcome.
The Islanders also completed a minor-league trade, sending forward Matt Lorito to Toronto in exchange for defenseman Jordan Schmaltz.
And they made various roster and paper moves to set themselves up for the post-deadline stretch drive, when roster limits expand and AHLers need to be on the AHL roster that day to be eligible for further AHL play this season or participation in the AHL playoffs: Otto Koivula and Kieffer Bellows were assigned to Bridgeport, though Koivula was immediately recalled — Pageau’s paperwork is still pending, so there was a chance he couldn’t play tonight vs. the Rangers. Cal Clutterbuck (conditioning stint) and Andrew Ladd were recalled from Bridgeport, so they’ll be on the NHL roster going forward.
Meanwhile, it was an uncharacteristically busy day at the deadline, with much of the activity happening among the Islanders’ Metro rivals.
Namely: The Hurricanes added Florida Panthers center Vincent Trocheck and Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei. The Penguins added Sharks old man Patrick Marleau and old friend Conor Sheary, and the Flyers — who were interested in Pageau but would not pay the price — added backup plans Derek Grant and once-upon-an-Islander Nate Thompson. The Blue Jackets swapped Long Island native Sonny Milano to Anaheim for Devin Shore. And of course, the Capitals previously added Ilya Kovalchuk entering the weekend.
The Islanders are not a favorite — arguably no one is in the East other than the Lightning and arguably the Bruins. But they belong in the Metro cage match from which someone has to emerge before the conference playoff field quickly winnows from eight to four to two. With their deadline moves, the Islanders improved their chances of making it a long spring.