Two weeks have passed since the players of the New York Islanders cleared out their lockers and reflected on the season that was before going their separate ways for the summer. Yet, we still haven’t heard from either head coach Lane Lambert or team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello.
Lambert last addressed the media following the Islanders’ elimination from the postseason on April 28, while Lamoriello hasn’t spoken publicly since April 1.
To further cast the situation in shadows, the organization hasn’t indicated whether or not either will return next season.
While it remains unclear if and when the Islanders brass will give their thoughts on the year, we can begin to prompt the two most pertinent questions they’ll face this offseason.
First and foremost, the Islanders must improve their powerplay this summer. Scoring just 15.8% of the time, the Islanders ranked 30th in the NHL during the regular season, and the problem became magnified during their series against the Carolina Hurricanes as they scored on just one of their 18 chances across six games.
There are a couple of ways to fix the problem, but the answer should be a combination of both.
Adding another puck-moving defenseman to alleviate some of the pressure on Noah Dobson would certainly help. Although, the changes shouldn’t just be limited to the personnel.
With such inexcusable results, the Islanders should look to move on from assistant coach John MacClean and find a new coach to run the power play next season.
But while fixing the powerplay has more precedence, another item of business will hang like a dark cloud over the Islanders’ heads for the entire season if not taken care of this summer.
Ilya Sorokin was the best player to put on the Islanders sweater this season, and his recent nomination as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy only verifies that statement as he enters the final year of his current contract.
“I have one more year,” Sorokin said at the conclusion of the season. “I never think about contracts in the moment. So it’s a yes for me. I like a lot about this place and the people that are on the team.”
Sorokin may not be thinking about his impending free agency, but the Islanders certainly should be.
However, the team has little room to negotiate or margin for error now that Sorokin’s recent nomination has officially established him as one of the league’s best goalies.
To make a blanket prediction, the Islanders’ offer will likely be an eight-year deal–lining up with the extensions they gave Mat Barzal and Bo Horvat last season–with a price tag somewhere north of $9.5 million annually.
While the Islanders continue to be passive with their communication, they cannot afford to do the same with these moves. In recent offseasons, the Islanders have operated covertly under Lamoriello, and that appears to be the case as of now. But without any clarification, speculation and worry will remain.