After missing on Gaudreau, where do Islanders go next?

Dave Sandford, Getty Images

The 2021-22 season did not go anywhere near as planned for the New York Islanders.

After back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Islanders entered the season with sky-high expectations, and reasonably so. They had a top head coach, two outstanding goalies, and a team that had shown it could win in the playoffs.

But everything that could have possibly gone wrong during the season did go wrong.

They started the season with a 13-game road trip while their new arena was completed. That road trip coincided with COVID and injury issues that absolutely decimated their roster. The end result was an 11-game losing streak that was part of a 5-10-5 start to the regular season. It put them in a hole that was pretty much impossible to climb out of in a top-heavy Eastern Conference.

Once their roster returned to normal and they actually had a chance to play some games at home, they finished the year with a much stronger record and at least a little bit closer to what should have been expected. But it still wasn’t quite good enough to get them closer than 16 points to a playoff spot. And even when looking at their final 62 games, where they went 32-27-5, that would still only be a 92-point pace over an 82-game season. That is still not at a playoff level.

That resulted in a pretty stunning head coach change that saw Barry Trotz get fired and replaced by Lane Lambert.

[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

But the roster, for the most part, remains the same as we get go through the first week of free agency. The only major chance to this point has been trading the No. 13 overall pick in a three-team trade with Montreal and Chicago that saw the Islanders acquire Alexander Romanov. He is young and has potential and has shown flashes of ability in the NHL, but he remains a total wild card.

The Islanders should still be strong on the back end. They still have the goalies (Ilya Sorokin in particular is emerging as one of the NHL’s elite at the position) but they are desperate for offense and quickly running out of options to upgrade it as most of the top candidates have already moved.

Kevin Fiala went to Los Angeles. Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux went to Ottawa. Filip Forsberg stayed in Nashville while Evgeni Malkin remained in Pittsburgh. Vincent Trocheck signed with the Islanders’ top rivals in across the city. Andrew Copp and David Perron went to Detroit. Max Pacioretty went to Carolina for, quite literally, nothing. And Johnny Gaudreau? The player considered to be the best option? He chose Columbus. Even New Jersey managed to add Ondrej Palat.

The Islanders?

Complete silence.

Friday’s sports cover of Long Island Newsday

In the short-term, it is concerning because the Islanders were already behind at least eight other teams in the Eastern Conference (including four in their own division) while several other non-playoff teams have made noticeable improvements (Detroit, Columbus).

They are quickly running out of time to find their own improvements.

Nazem Kadri is still available, and Vancouver still has not made a decision on J.T. Miller and whether or not to trade him or extend him.

Other than that, the options are already slim unless Lamoriello really pulls something out of nowhere.

Given the lack of options, it is difficult to see how the Islanders make up that ground to get back to the playoffs with what is essentially the same roster.

The long-term concern is that the Islanders are on a ticking clock with core players like Mathew Barzal and Sorokin.

Barzal is in the final year of his current bridge contract, and is one year away from potential unrestricted free agency.

Sorokin will be an unrestricted free agent at the same time. They already have 10 players on the roster over the age of 30, and several more that are quickly closing in on that number. And outside of Barzal and Sorkin, there is not really a difference-maker on the roster. There are a lot of really good players, and a handful of very good players. But nobody else that is going to keep an opposing coach awake at night going into a matchup.

If the goal is to get back to the playoffs and compete this season around Barzal and Sorokin, they really needed somebody like a Gaudreau, or a DeBrincat, or even a Pacioretty this offseason. They missed the boat on all of them. Now it looks like they are headed for a couple of years of hockey purgatory over the next couple of years.

Lamoriello’s career resume speaks for itself. He built a dynasty in New Jersey and deserves all of the credit in the world for that. But that was pre-salary cap days in the league, and his teams have struggled to maintain sustained success over several years in the cap era. And despite winning back-to-back GM of the year awards there have been some questionable moves the past few years (investing so much in the fourth line; trading Devon Toews for two second-round draft picks; missing out on everybody this offseason).

It has left the Islanders in a state of mediocrity and it is tough to see a short-term path for exiting it.

Scroll Down For:

    Kuzmenko signs 2-year extension with Canucks

    Andrei Kuzmenko
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Forward Andrei Kuzmenko signed a two-year contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

    The deal has an average annual value of $5.5 million.

    The 26-year-old Kuzmenko has played in 47 games for the Canucks this season with 21 goals and 22 assists, four penalty minutes and a plus-4 defensive ranking.

    Kuzmenko ranks second on the team in goals and power-play goals (nine) this season.

    His 43 points are also tied for third on the team in overall scoring, while his 32 even-strength points (12 goals, 20 assists) are second on the Canucks.

    Kuzmenko leads all Vancouver skaters in shooting rate (24.7%) and ranks third in the NHL in that category (minimum of 20 games).

    He leads all first-year NHLers in almost every offensive category, including goals, assists, points, points per game (0.91), power-play goals, and power-play points.

    He has also had 14 multi-point games so far this season (second most on the Canucks), highlighted by his first-career NHL hat trick and season-high four-point game against Anaheim on Nov. 3.

    A native of Yakutsk, Russia, Kuzmenko spent his first eight professional seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with CSKA Moscow and SKA St. Petersburg, getting 200 points (85-115-200) in 315 regular-season games. He set career highs in goals (20), assists (33), and points (53) last season, ranking second in the league in scoring.

    Kuzmenko has also represented his country on the international stage on multiple occasions, totaling 16 points (10-6-16) and six penalty minutes in 37 games played. He was originally signed by Vancouver to a one-year, entry-level contract on July 13, 2022.

    Hurricanes top Stars in OT to win matchup of 1st-place teams

    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
    1 Comment

    DALLAS – Martin Necas scored 1:34 into overtime to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars in a matchup of division leaders Wednesday night.

    Sebastian Aho had a short-handed goal and Brent Burns also scored for the Hurricanes, who lead the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference. The game-winner was Necas’ 19th goal this season.

    Dallas is still atop the Western Conference, and the Central Division, after its second consecutive 3-2 overtime loss at home. Jason Robertson scored his 33rd goal for the Stars, and 19-year-old rookie Wyatt Johnston got his 13th.

    Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen didn’t return after the first intermission because of an upper-body injury, soon after a strange sequence that ended with Robertson scoring on a shot from what seemed to be an impossible angle.

    The puck was bouncing on the ice behind Andersen and settled against the post after Tyler Seguin‘s shot before the goalie was able to swipe it away to his right. Robertson then shot from behind Andersen, and the puck apparently ricocheted off him and into the net for a 2-1 Dallas lead. Robertson’s 33rd goal matched his assists total.

    Antti Raanta replaced Andersen and stopped all 15 shots he faced – none in overtime – after the starter had four saves. Raanta had to shake off getting struck in the head by Mason Marchment‘s stick when the Stars forward was behind the net fighting for the puck midway through the third period.

    Stars goalie Jake Oettinger stopped 22 shots, including a glove save of Andrei Svechnikov‘s wrister with just more than five minutes left in regulation.

    Aho’s 200th career goal put Carolina up 1-0 midway through the first period. The Stars got even just more than two minutes later when Johnston scored unassisted after a faceoff.

    Johnston also had a shot ricochet off the post with just under six minutes left.

    In between the first two goals, Oettinger went into a fully extended split, with his right skate against the post, to deny Paul Stastny‘s attempt to knock in a loose puck.

    Burns tied the game at 2 in the second period, getting the puck after a faceoff, then skating over the top of the circle and scoring top shelf over Oettinger’s left shoulder.

    NOTES: Marchment was coming out of the penalty box at the same time Carolina made an errant pass in the second period. He had a breakaway attempt, but couldn’t get enough control of the puck to get off a quality shot. … Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce and Stars center Luke Glendening both got five-minute penalties for fighting in the second period.


    Hurricanes: Will play San Jose on Friday night in the first of three consecutive home games.

    Stars: Host the New Jersey Devils on Friday night in their last game before the All-Star break.

    Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry out until after the All-Star break

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry‘s on-again, off-again season is now off again.

    Coach Mike Sullivan said that the two-time All-Star will miss at least two games with an upper-body injury.

    Jarry was scheduled to start against Florida but reported an upper-body issue when he arrived at PPG Paints Arena. Casey DeSmith got the last-second start as the Penguins pulled out a wild 7-6 victory over the Panthers.

    Jarry is out through at least the All-Star break. Pittsburgh plays at Washington and then hosts San Jose before getting a full week off.

    The 27-year-old Jarry has played well when he’s been in the lineup, posting a 16-5-5 record with a 2.65 goals-against average in 27 games. His availability, however, has been an issue of late. He missed more than two weeks earlier this month after being injured against Boston in the Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

    The Penguins are not as sharp when Jarry is out. Pittsburgh is 8-10-3 with DeSmith or Dustin Tokarski in goal this season. The Penguins recalled Tokarski from their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to back up DeSmith during Jarry’s absence.

    Letang scores twice in return, Penguins beat Panthers 7-6 in OT

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    PITTSBURGH – Amid a nightmarish season off the ice, Kris Letang has been searching for joy. A sense of normalcy.

    He found a little of both.

    The veteran Pittsburgh defenseman scored twice in his return from a lower-body injury, the second with 54 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins a 7-6 victory over Florida.

    “I was just happy to be out there,” Letang said. “Be in the atmosphere of the team.”

    Letang’s 17th season with Pittsburgh has been pockmarked by health issues and a profound sense of loss. He missed two weeks after suffering the second stroke of his career shortly after Thanksgiving. He then tweaked something in a loss to Detroit on Dec. 28.

    His father died unexpectedly a few days later, and Letang spent an extended amount of time with his family in his native Montreal, with his teammates making an unexpected stop to join Letang for his father’s wake at the end of a West Coast swing earlier this month.

    The Penguins activated him off injured reserve on Tuesday afternoon. Letang responded with four points in a rollicking game that featured 13 goals, the last Letang’s one-timer from just above the left circle on the power play that gave Pittsburgh just its fourth win in 12 overtime games this season.

    “It was kind of surreal, you know?” Letang said. “I didn’t know what to think or how it was going to go. These guys supported me for the last month… it’s just great to be back.”

    The Penguins, currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, opened up a small bit of breathing room over the ninth-place Panthers by beating Florida for the 18th time in its last 21 trips to Pittsburgh.

    Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Danton Heinen each had a goal and two assists for The Penguins. Rickard Rakell and Drew O'Connor also scored for the Penguins.

    Casey DeSmith struggled in place of Tristan Jarry, a late scratch with an upper-body injury. DeSmith stopped 33 shots, including both he faced in overtime, to win for the third time in his last 10 starts.

    “That was a huge two points for us,” DeSmith said. “Obviously we’re battling with them in the standings. Character win at home.”

    Carter Verhaeghe scored twice for Florida, including a tying goal with 2:32 left in regulation. Aaron Ekblad had a goal and two assists. Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart each had a goal and an assist. Colin White‘s sixth goal of the season 4:10 into the third gave the Panthers the lead but Florida couldn’t hold it.

    Alex Lyon made 42 saves after getting the start when Spencer Knight was unavailable for reasons head coach Paul Maurice would not disclose. The Panthers are 7-3-2 since January 1 to surge back into the fringe of contention.

    “We’re so much more of a different hockey team than we were a month ago at this time,” Maurice said. “Rallied around each other, battled as hard as they could to get a point on the road in the circumstances that we’re in. I couldn’t be more proud.”

    Neither Lyon or DeSmith – who got the heads up he was playing less than an hour before the opening faceoff – appeared quite ready to play on short notice. They gave up a six goals – three by each team – during a frantic first period that included Letang’s first goal since Dec. 15 and Tkachuk’s 25th of the season.

    Things settled down in the second. Ekblad’s short-handed goal put the Panthers in front but Crosby knotted the game at 4-4 with a pretty backhand through Lyon’s legs with 40 seconds to go in the period to set up a hectic third in which both teams squandered one-goal leads.

    “It wasn’t pretty but you need to find ways to win sometimes,” Crosby said. “We did a good job of that here today.”


    Panthers: Host Angeles on Friday night.

    Penguins: At Washington on Thursday night.