No doubt about it, it’s been a trying offseason for New York Islanders fans. Perhaps the most trying offseason of all time. Of course, superstar captain John Tavares elected to depart the team on the opening day of free agency, signing a massive seven year deal with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.
All along Tavares had maintained that his priority was to remain with the Islanders organization and sign a long-term deal with the team. Evidently, something changed once Tavares hit the open market though as he was able to be wooed by Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas and ultimately decided to turn his back on the Islanders forever.
Since Tavares’ departure, Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello has made a series of seemingly baffling moves to help fill the void left by the team’s former captain. Lamoriello signed former Leafs veteran Leo Komarov to a lengthy four year, $12 million deal on the opening day of free agency. He followed this bizarre signing up by acquiring another former Leafs healthy scratch when he traded for enforcer Matt Martin. Lamoriello then added a goaltender Robin Lehner, a cast off from the abysmal Buffalo Sabres, on a one year deal. He also inked an aging Valtteri Filppula to a one year deal to help fill the void at center ice.
Yesterday though Lamoriello made perhaps his two most bizarre moves. First, he signed KHL star Jan Kovar to a one year, $2 million contract. At first blush it’s not a particularly strange move, but when you consider that the Islanders’ top six forward group is already jammed up with the likes of Matthew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Andrew Ladd, Anthony Beauvillier, Filppula… well, something’s got to give.
Lamoriello’s most bizarre signing though has to be yesterday’s four year extension for fourth line grinder Ross Johnston. Who?
The 24 year old winger, who stands 6 foot 5 inches and weighs 235 pounds, has just three goals and six points in 25 career NHL games… yet he’s worth a four year extension? What on Earth is going on with the Islanders?!
I suppose you could make a case for the Islanders locking up a promising young player if Johnston had decent production levels in the AHL, but he’s been just as mediocre there as he’s been in the NHL. In 38 games with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2017-18, Johnston managed just three goals and 11 points. It’s worth noting however that the enforcer did put up 113 penalty minutes though.
It’s likely that Johnston, along with the aforementioned Martin, is part of Lamoriello’s plan to make the Islanders a tougher team moving forward. No doubt the team’s hiring of Stanley Cup winning head coach Barry Trotz had a lot to do with this philosophy, as well. Still…. four years for a guy in his mid-20’s who has only managed 24 career games… yikes.