The New York Islanders announced on Tuesday morning that they have signed Steve Pellegrini as an assistant general manager under new president and GM Lou Lamoriello. He will also work alongside Lou’s son and fellow assistant GM, Chris.
Pellegrini previously had been the New Jersey Devils vice president of hockey operations since 2006, working with Lamoriello for nine of the last 12 years before the Hall-of-Famer joined the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015.
In New Jersey, Pellegrini’s forte was contract negotiations and salary cap compliance as well as scouting. He helped the Devils make the postseason six times in his 12 seasons, including a trip to the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
“Steve brings over 20 years of knowledge and experience to our hockey operations,” Lamoriello added via an official team statement.
But more importantly, it adds further firepower to the Islanders’ front office when it comes to the future of captain and All-Star John Tavares.
Tavares is set to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 and would be the most coveted player available on the market should he get there. But the Islanders now have a few factors going for them, not just the face that Tavares has said all the right things, including his desire to stay with the franchise that drafted him first overall in 2009.
The Islanders secured a state-of-the-art arena in Elmont, NY, which should open in two-to-three years, that is closer to Tavares’ home on Long Island. After 43 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, the Islanders moved to Brooklyn in 2015 where a three-year stay at the Barclays Center has been far from fruitful. While the new arena is being built, the Islanders will split home games between Brooklyn and the rennovated Nassau Coliseum.
Now comes the part that actually matters: Success.
Despite the Islanders not making the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, things are suddenly looking up after the hiring of Lamoriello in late May. Over the last three-plus weeks, he has fired general manager Garth Snow — the main reason why the team has been stuck in neutral for the past 12 years — and inexperienced head coach Doug Weight.
Lamoriello and Tavares have already met, though the state of their talks have not been disclosed. But it’s safe to assume that his future with the franchise has been discussed, which makes it imperative for Lamoriello to not only guarantee an improved roster and a contender, but to act on it this summer.
The Islanders have big issues to fill on defense and with their goaltending and will attempt to scour the trade market and free agency to find significant upgrades.
This is where Pellegrini comes in. Islanders fans should expect him to be a leading man alongside Lamoriello in negotiations with Tavares as the franchise attempts to secure him in orange and blue for the foreseeable future. Should the Islanders find a blue liner or goalie in free agency, he’ll likely be tasked to coax them in signing here in New York, which would have normally been a tough sell if it wasn’t for the presence of Lamoriello.
The Islanders have made the postseason just nine times since 1993 and have just two series victories during that span.