Lou Lamoriello’s GM of the Year handiwork all over Islanders’ playoff run

While his Islanders are in the middle of their deepest playoff run in ages, Lou Lamoriello received the 2020 GM of the Year Award on Saturday.

Considering how a GM’s job is to manage the present and the future (and trifling/thrifty/erratic/etc. owners), it normally feels strange to hand out such an honor for the year. But, in Lamoriello’s case, it’s oddly fitting.

That’s because time will tell if his investments will work out in the long-term, but right now? Yeah, his moves are looking pretty spiffy. You’ll get another chance to observe the fruits of Lamoriello’s labor as the Islanders take on the Lightning in Game 4 on Saturday (3 p.m. ET – NBC: livestream).

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Recent bets paying off … so far

Consider trade deadline(-ish) additions in Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Andy Greene.

Over time, it’s plausible that Pageau’s immediate extension (six years, $30M, with no-trade clauses) could really bite the Islanders, and they gave up a bucket of picks to snare JGP from the Senators. Handing over a second-round pick also felt a little steep to rent Greene.

But, again, the immediate results have been impressive.

Pageau ranks first on the Islanders in even-strength goals (eight, all of his goals), and sixth on the team with 11 playoff points. His defensive play looks great if you go old-school with your stats (+12), and also if you dig deeper (on the ice for 46 high-danger for and just 23 against at even-strength, according to Natural Stat Trick).

You’re not going to Greene for points (two goals, two assists in 18 playoff games), but the veteran has come in handy in what he’s billed as: a quality “defensive defenseman.” Greene’s been on the ice for 10 even-strength goals for versus seven against, along with 65 high-danger chances for versus 53 against.

Trotz, other bets paying off

Of course, a GM’s work extends beyond trade deadline moves, and even “GM of the Year” considerations go back.

Far and away, the most important decision Lamoriello made was lining up the money to nab Barry Trotz. There really isn’t a better fit for the sort of players Lamoriello seeks than a coach like Trotz, who has been instrumental in making the post-John Tavares era shockingly fruitful. That Trotz hire came before 2019-20, of course, but its impact couldn’t have been lost on voters.

Even some of the bolder moves look decent-to-good.

It was a bit puzzling that the Islanders didn’t seem to pursue re-signing Robin Lehner all that aggressively, especially when they turned around and gave an older, more recently up-and-down goalie a significant contract when they inked Semyon Varlamov. For the most part, that’s worked out well for the Islanders, even if it’s not impossible to imagine Lehner producing similar results.

Bottom line: the Islanders keep defying expectations ever since Lamoriello and Trotz came to town, and now they’re three wins from reaching the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.

Challenges ahead for Lamoriello, Islanders

But, again, the “of the year” part could be key.

Via Cap Friendly, the Islanders have a bit less than $9M in cap space heading into 2020-21. Frankly, that could conceivably be an appropriate salary for Mathew Barzal by himself, let alone fellow RFAs Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews.

Naturally, Lamoriello will come up with something — yet it sure seems like things will be snug for the Islanders for some time.

At the moment, sticking with this doesn’t sound bad at all for the Islanders. That can change quickly in hockey, however, so we’ll see if this “GM of the Year” ends up boxing his team into a corner.

That’s for later, though. For now, we get to see the positive sides of that handiwork, continuing with Islanders – Lightning Game 4.

No. 2 Tampa Bay Lightning vs. No. 6 New York Islanders (TB leads 2-1)

Series preview
Lightning 8, Islanders 2. (recap)
Lightning 2, Islanders 1 (recap)
Islanders 5, Lightning 3 (recap)
Game 4:
Sunday, Sept. 13, 3 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
Game 5:
Tuesday, Sept. 15, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Game 6:
Thursday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Game 7:
Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC

*if necessary

MORE STANLEY CUP COVERAGE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs Conference Final schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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