Since coming to New York about a year ago, Lou Lamoriello has helped to set the Islanders up with a good foundation for the coming years. With an uncertain offseason looming for the Islanders though and free agency fast approaching, what are some of the pros and cons of Lamoriello’s free agent strategy (based on his track record)?
Pro: He’s well respected
Lamoriello has been around the game for a long time and he’s built up a reputation for himself as someone who can be trusted to assemble a competitive team. As a result, he’s a good face of the organization when it comes to free agency.
In the past few years alone, he was able to attract Patrick Marleau away from San Jose after 19 years with the Sharks, despite the Toronto Maple Leafs having only made the playoffs once at that point in their rebuild. Obviously, Lamoriello is able to do a pretty excellent job selling an organization. Then, upon coming to New York, he was able to bring in Barry Trotz without having to do a whole lot of convincing. He’s a name that people want to be involved with, based on his track record.
Con: He’ll overpay on short-term deals
A lot of bringing Patrick Marleau to Toronto was based on Lamoriello’s ability to sell the organization to him– but let’s also not forget the price he paid to do it. He offered Marleau a three-year deal for $6.25 million per year, while San Jose was only willing to pay much closer to his market value, offering just two years at a $5 million AAV per year. Obviously, this had a lot to do with convincing Marleau to head to Toronto.
We also saw this with the likes of Matt Martin’s deal in Toronto and Leo Komarov’s contract last offseason. Within three of four years of term, it seems like Lamoriello is willing to give out more money than others would.
Pro: He’s able to keep a lower cap hit on long-term deals
Though he’s willing to overpay on short-term deals, it also seems like Lamoriello almost has a maximum amount he’s willing to pay players and won’t go above it. He’s been involved in several difficult negotiations, including ones with the likes of Martin Brodeur and Bill Guerin. It shows that Lamoriello won’t freely give out more money than he thinks top players are worth. We’ve seen it with Nazem Kadri, Frederik Andersen and Morgan Rielly– Lamoriello has the ability to keep deals at a manageable cap hit. Even Nikita Zaitsev’s deal in Toronto, though also giving a ton of term, was actually a pretty fair value in terms of AAV at the time he was signed.
Though this applies more to players who are restricted by the team rather than unrestricted, it means we’re not likely to see him grossly overpay for a UFA, giving salary so high it could actually be negative to New York’s long-term cap situation.
Con: He’ll sign older players
I should start by saying this doesn’t necessarily have to be a con. That being said, typically your big free agent targets shouldn’t be in their 30s, based on an expected decline in production. It’s clear that Lamoriello likes having a veteran presence but this comes with signing players who are too old to get the term that they do. Patrick Marleau was 37 years old when he went to Toronto, Valtteri Filppula was 34 years old last offseason (though that was only a one year deal) and Leo Komarov was 31 when he signed for four years with the Islanders.
Again, this isn’t always a con but ideally, you’d like to see more of a focus placed on players in their prime rather than just veterans.
In summary, Lamoriello can attract players based on his reputation and ability to sell a team. He also isn’t likely to sign just a “good” player to a deal with an AAV meant for a star. Alternatively though, he doesn’t mind bringing in an older player to a short-term deal and instead you have to hope he’s looking for a home run with a star player this time around in free agency.