The New York Islanders started their offseason by making significant moves to their coaching staff. Head coach Barry Trotz was relieved of his duties, followed by the promotion of associate coach Lane Lambert. Then two of Trotz’s longtime assistants, John Gruden and Jim Hiller, were let go.
Jim Paliafito had been the Director of Player Evaluation with the Toronto Maple Leafs since the 2015-16 season after a four-year tenure as general manager of the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit.
His expertise lies in European free-agent markets.
In Lamoriello’s first year as general manager of the Leafs (2015-16), his assistant general manager Mark Hunter hired Paliafito and that move paid off. Players like Nikita Zaitsev, Calle Rosen, and Andreas Borgman all signed with the Leafs because of Paliafito’s hard work and dedication to his craft. His latest was building a relationship with Ilya Mikheyev and helping the Leafs sign the undrafted forward back in May of 2019.
Oddly enough, Mikheyev is a unrestricted free agent who Toronto has allowed to speak to other teams about obtaining his rights. Could the New York Islanders be in play for the shifty, skilled 27-year-old?
In a Toronto Sun article from 2017, Lou Lamoriello said “What I’ve found with Jim is that he’s a quality human being with outstanding communications skills. That’s not something I say easily. Not everybody has good communication skills. When you work in a team environment, that’s really important. He does just about everything for us (in Europe). He has this way about him a trust, and he’s one of the most honest human beings I’ve ever been around.”
That is high praise from a man who has been around the game longer than most of us have been around.
And it’s not a shock that when Paliafito became available this summer that Lamoriello was interested in bringing him along. There is no word whether Paliafito was fired by the Leafs or if leaving the Leafs was his doing.
The Islanders have not signed a European free agent since the Jan Kovar experiment of 2018. The fact that most of you probably don’t recall the name says enough about how that ordeal transpired.
Per the Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, the New York Islanders currently have the 31st ranked prospect pool, out of 32 teams.
The Islanders need help with scouting and with European hockey on the rise, can Jim Paliafito help find a diamond in the rough for the Islanders?