For a team that has basically been dormant for the past 33 years, the New York Islanders have seen plenty of action and rumors surrounding them over the past month.
After the hiring of Hall-of-Fame executive Lou Lamoriello as president of hockey operations at the end of May, changes have swept the club, including the firings of general manager Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight.
It was a necessary and overdue culture change seeing as the Islanders have made the playoffs just four times since Snow took over in 2006 while recording just one postseason series win.
After two playoff-less seasons, the team’s mediocrity called the future of All-Star captain John Tavares into question as the 27-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Tavares is the biggest star the Islanders have had since the dynasty years of the early 1980s and the possibility of his departure under the old regime would have sent the organization spiraling into even darker times.
But Lamoriello, who helped build the New Jersey Devils into three-time Stanley Cup winners, has quickly turned the outlook of the Islanders around, presenting the promise of this week being a turning point in the team’s history.
In terms of Tavares’ future, the chances of him staying have significantly improved. His agent, Pat Brisson, told NHL.com that Tavares has had “ongoing dialogue with the Isles for the past three weeks on a daily basis.”
Over the past year, Tavares has consistently said the right thing and has made it known that he would ideally like to stay with the organization that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009. But the team’s inability to build a contender around the Canadian center along with difficulties securing a long-term arena did little to endear him to commit to the club. In December, the Islanders found their site to build a state-of-the-art, hockey-first home in Elmont, NY, which provides Tavares with a much shorter commute compared to Brooklyn from the $6 million home he built in Garden City, NY last year.
Now Lamoriello provides something Tavares hasn’t experienced much of in the NHL: Hope.
In the meantime, the Islanders have other things to focus on before the 2018 NHL Draft on Friday. A report from SNY’s Chris Botta revealed that Lamoriello wants to have a new head coach in place before the draft. While there is no definitive favorite for the job, names like Sheldon Keefe and Barry Trotz have been mentioned around the vacancy.
Lamoriello could keep the ball rolling on draft night as the Islanders have the 11th and 12th picks in the first round. With the team needing NHL-ready defensemen and a true No. 1 goaltender, the Islanders could use one of those picks to help facilitate a trade that could address either those weak points.
That’s more activity than the Islanders have been a part of in what feels like a decade. So buckle up, Islanders fans. Things are expected to get hectic this week.