Lamoriello plays games (again), penguins get hit

For the second summer in a row, it appears New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has a contract tucked away in his top drawer, hidden from competitors so he can maneuver his salary cap situation and the trade market of the NHL to a more favorable location. Nazem Kadri is the dirty secret of this summer for the Islanders, who intend to improve and challenge the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Metro Division.

The cavalcade of reports and rumours, including those heard by the National Hockey Now family, confirm (or create) Kadri’s suspicions of the Islanders, although no one confirms it.

It stunk last summer. It stinks this summer like a dead fish hiding under the driver’s seat for weeks in the August heat (it’s a real prank the boys from Johnstown played on the GM back when the Chiefs existed).

It operates outside the spirit of the process (still) has (still) obstructed the NHL free agent market and the NHL commercial market. The fact that several journalists at different levels have learned about the story should also tell us that there is a lot of smoke coming from this fire and that not everyone is happy with the latest revelations.

Successively, our national columnist and Boston scribe, Jimmy Murphy, texted to say what he had heard, but was still not comfortable reporting. Then Adrian Dater, who covers the Colorado Avalanche, heard the same thing and was chasing the story. Elliotte Friedman hit the market last week with the rumors, and yesterday our New York Islanders beat writer Stefen Rosner published the source article that it was happening…as soon as Lamoriello worked out his issues of cap.

Last summer, Kyle Palmieri was one of the contracts hidden in Lamoriello’s top drawer until he could submit it without putting himself in a bad position.

Palmieri hasn’t had a good run on Long Island and could be properly castigated as one of the goats for an extremely disappointing 2021-22 season (COVID, a terrible schedule, and a few others too), in which the Islanders missed out. the playoffs and summarily fired head coach Barry Trotz. Pageau was another.

This summer, a few sources let the cat out of the bag. Or whistled. It will be Kadri, although rival GMs may not be as keen or able to help Lamoriello. As we noted last week, 12 teams are currently over the NHL salary cap, and 10 more have squeezed against the cap.

This means that 10 teams are the belle of the ball and can dance with whoever they want.

New York has a few RFAs to get under contract, including promising defenseman Noah Dobson, newly acquired defenseman Alexander Romanov and Kieffer Bellows. Rosner predicts the Islanders will be down to a few million before Kadri.

As Rosner noted, the Islanders will need to earn a significant salary for Kadri to perform. Brock Nelson is a capable second-line center, but would the Islanders sideline him for a 32-year-old Kadri? Palmieri no longer has much commercial value, nor does $5 million third-line center Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Lamoriello is the kid trying to lick the cupcakes, so they’re his for later. Maybe another GM will come forward boldly and snatch Kadri before Lamoriello can act. Or maybe this market is so stuffy that the Islanders can’t move without significantly hurting their future.

“Glad you called, Lou. Of course, I’ll take Pageau.. …And Dobson. Thanks.”

However, if Lamoriello can pull off another salary cap sleight of hand, the Pittsburgh Penguins will face a revitalized Islanders team.

And a much tougher Metro Division, literally and figuratively.

Last season, four Metro teams made the playoffs. The Penguins finished in the top tier with the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes, and the Washington Capitals rode all the way. New Jersey added Ondrej Palat to an emerging core this summer with Jack Hughes. The Columbus Blue Jackets added Johnny Gaudreau and will enter this season with no tragedy looming in the recent past.

At first glance, the Capitals’ playoff hopes seem doomed. Tom Wilson and Nick Backstrom will be out for months. Backstrom may never return or come back as an underdog after major hip surgery.

The Boston Bruins are aging rapidly. General manager Don Sweeney is trying to bring 35-year-old center David Krejci back to the NHL, although neither he nor Patrice Bergeron have signed a contract yet.

The Islanders’ stealth attempt could also hamper Penguins general manager Ron Hextall’s ability to move his salary. The Penguins are over the cap and depending on the math or process you choose, they could squirm under it, but only with an uncomfortable 12 forward roster or say goodbye to an NHL defenseman with nothing in return. .

Hextall has plenty of company on the NHL’s trading front, most of it out in the open and one trying to hide in the shadows.

The Metro Division is never short of drama.