After back-to-back trips to the NHL Stanley Cup Semifinals, and a brand new arena at Belmont Park, the New York Islanders have become a team that the league’s best players want to be a part of.
Vladimir Tarasenko and Gabriel Landeskog are the latest high-profile names that have included the Islanders on their wish list of teams they’d play for. Both have been locked in disputes with their current clubs, with Tarasenko calling for a trade out of St. Louis and Landeskog at an impasse in contract negotiations with Colorado.
The fact that the Islanders made their lists is something that just a few years ago would have seemed unheard of. Now after the cap moves made by Lou Lamoriello and recent trades, the pipe dream of bringing in talent like either of those two has gone from wishful thinking to a legitimate possibility.
After the Minnesota Wild bought out Zach Parise on July 13, immediately the talk was that he will end up joining the Islanders. Parise waived his no-trade clause at the 2020 deadline to come to the island, but a deal was not made because of the complicated financial situation both teams were in.
Parise may not be the player that Lou Lamoriello saw leave for Minnesota back in 2012, but he could be a valuable addition to the current Islanders roster.
To get to this point the Islanders have gone through a massive shift in the perception of the franchise. Gone are the days of an organization looked at as the punching bag of the league. Now the Islanders are viewed as a franchise others would want to emulate, some might even say they’ve become a saintly organization.
It was not too long ago when the likes of Evgeni Nabokov (2011) and Lubomir Visnovskiy (2013) failed to report to the Islanders upon acquisition. Back then the Islanders were not a competitive franchise and getting players to come to Long Island was akin to pulling teeth at times.
The tide started to shift in 2014 for the Islanders with the acquisitions of Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy.
General manager at the time, Garth Snow, acquired the pair of Stanley Cup Champions. While Leddy had zero say, Boychuk had to waive his no-movement clause to join the Islanders and then the two made even bigger waves when they signed seven-year contract extensions.
Boychuk’s playing days have come to an end and Leddy was traded this past Friday to Detroit, but the impact of their signings paved the way for where the Islanders are now.
While the culture of the Islanders was shifting slowly but surely, the hiring of general manager Lou Lamoriello in the summer of 2018, and his critical hiring of Barry Trotz as head coach, sped up the process. The building blocks for success were prevalent and over the last three seasons, the Islanders went from a laughing stock in the NHL to a Stanley Cup contender.
Whether it had been through trades, followed by long-term contracts, or free-agent acquisitions, players have shown interest in what the Islanders have to offer.
The NHL Trade Deadline over the last two seasons has magnified the Islanders’ growth.
After Jean-Gabriel Pageau was acquired from the Ottawa Senators a the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline, he showed a willingness to remain on the Island. He inked a six-year extension before ever stepping foot on the ice with his new teammates, which exemplified a strong sense of trust.
A week prior to the Pageau acquisition, the Islanders made a trade with New Jersey to acquire defenseman Andy Greene. The lifelong Devil, and current captain at the time, agreed to be traded to the Islanders (No-Trade Clause) in an effort to join a team that was slated to compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After his contract came to a close following the 2020 season, he signed a 1-year deal to remain with the Islanders.
This past Saturday, Greene signed another 1-year deal with the Islanders.
One move from 2020 that may not garner much attention in regards to this subject is Ilya Sorokin coming over from Europe. The third-round selection in 2015 could have elected to remain in his home country and continue to play in the KHL as he did a few years prior when he signed a contract extension with CSKA Moscow.
But he did not.
Sorokin not only came over, but he played big minutes in his rookie campaign and was key in the Islanders’ run back to the semifinals. He proved that he had the skills to be a number one goaltender in the NHL.
The skilled netminder is currently a restricted free agent, and by all accounts, a deal will get done prior to next season.
In 2020, Lamoriello made another deal with the Devil, as he acquired forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline. While both currently remain free agents, Palmieri has stated publically that he would like to remain with the Islanders if possible.
Times have changed on Long Island. There is a winning culture in place and players from around the NHL are seeing that and are showing a desire to be a part of it.