Welcome back to Around the League — a column in which we examine news from around the NHL through a Canucks-tinted lens.
After signing the exact same number of unrestricted free agents as the Atlanta Thrashers this offseason, we finally have some news from Long Island.
The Islanders today announced three signings from RFA, the club’s first three moves since the 2022 NHL Draft.
Dedications of the Three Islands
Announced within minutes of each other, the Islanders re-signed Noah Dobson, Kieffer Bellows and Alex Romanov.
Bellows, coming off his best offensive season with six goals, 13 assists and 19 points in 45 games, signed a one-year contract worth $1.2 million.
Romanov signed a three-year contract with a cap of $2.5 million. The Islanders acquired Romanov from the Montreal Canadiens in the draft, just minutes after a deal with the Canucks reportedly fell through.
As far as the Dobson contract goes, the Islanders seem to have gotten a steal here. The club managed to re-sign the 22-year-old defender on a three-year contract worth $4 million per season.
The 6’4 product from Summerside, PEI. plays a prominent role as a right-handed defenseman and is coming off a season in which he had 13 goals and 38 assists while recording big minutes for New York.
It’s a tidy job for the Islanders, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone complaining about the other two RFA contracts the club signed on Monday morning.
What remains unanswered – even after GM Lou Lamoriello’s media availability today – is the Islanders’ forward squad, which remains unchanged from last season, when the Islanders finished fifth in the Metropolitan Division and missed the playoffs.
A hole the size of a Miller
The Islanders were the first to sign Nazem Kadri, but the Calgary Flames convinced Kadri to take his talents north of the border for the next seven years.
That leaves a gap in the Islanders roster.
You could even call it a JT Miller sized hole.
Like Kadri, Miller is versatile and is said to be a player of interest to the Islanders. The Islanders’ supposed interest, as well as the reported talks between them and the Canucks during the Montreal draft that ultimately only resulted in a few select words. , make Lamoriello’s words today all the more interesting.
“As we said late last year, if we could upgrade any part of our lineup, we definitely would,” Lamoriello told reporters on Zoom today. “And like all the other teams in the National Hockey League, there is constant communication to try to do that, and we looked at many different options. Unfortunately, the options we looked at, as I had mentioned to do hockey trades, we wouldn’t have gotten in return what we need to give up to make us, in my opinion, a better team.
“I’m really very excited about the team we have at the moment, at the start of the season, so I feel very good. But if we could have improved, we would have. It’s no different of this season, but that’s the price you have to pay to do something to move up a position and what you do if the pros and cons don’t work, you really demote your whole team.
As it stands, the Islanders roster should look like this, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:
Does this sound like a group of forwards capable of locking down a playoff berth in the ever-competitive Metro Division?
Lou Lamoriello seems to think so.
It was a down year from Mat Barzal, but he and Brock Nelson – who had a career year at 30 – were tied for the team lead in points with 59. Behind them was Noah Dobson – a defender. That’s just not enough support from your best players to win in the NHL, no matter how good your team’s defense is.
This team certainly looks like the type that would benefit from the addition of a 99-point Swiss army knife type player like Miller, who can not only produce at 5-on-5 but also contribute effectively to both special teams units.
Presumably the Canucks would have asked about Dobson in any Miller trade involving the Islanders, but with the bounty we’ve seen teams pay this offseason for solid right-handed defense assist, that would never happen, and Lamoriello’s comments suggest as much.
The Canucks have struggled to find a business partner willing to give up what the club thinks Miller is worth so far, but after losing the Kadri contest and with a better idea of their cap structure going forward, the Canucks Will Islanders come knocking?
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