The New York Islanders have been one of the early NHL surprises as the league hits the quarter-pole. Because of this, Lou will have some big second-half questions to answer.
It will not be easy to go back and find a hockey expert who picked the New York Islanders as a team to watch out for. If the Isles success continues what will Lou Lamoriello do come early 2019 regarding his pending unrestricted free agents?
For sake of argument, let’s put Lee to the side. The Isles have been talking extension with Anders since September, and Lou didn’t make him captain unless he thought the Notre-Dame alum was going to be a fixture on Long Island.
Nelson and Eberle are a different kettle of fish, however.
If the Isles are in a playoff spot-race come February and Lamoriello is not committed long-term to either Nelson and Eberle, what does that mean in regards to those players futures? Does Lou trade them or does he value a playoff push and possibly a post-season appearance more than the draft picks and prospects he could garner in return from a trade?
That’s not an easy call.
After the Isles big three pending UFA’s there are other players Lamoriello has to consider as well. Valtteri Filppula, Robin Lehner, and Tom Kuhnhackl all signed one-year deals this summer and they too will be free agents this summer.
Filppula is the key player in this group, as he could be a very wanted commodity come the NHL Trade Deadline at the end of February. Again if the Isles are in a playoff race what does Lou do with this trio?
Odds are Lou will not split the baby. He will either go down the road of hold on to all of these players or move them all in trades with the focus being on the long-term picture for the organization.
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First and foremost the Islanders need to hit February in a playoff spot-race. Secondly, February gives Lou a deadline to get a long-term deal done with his captain.
Clearly, Lou has identified Anders as a big part of the team’s future and a new contract needs to get over the finish line come early 2019. After that which way Lou goes is up for debate.