MONTREAL — As day two of the NHL draft opened and goaltenders started to be moved with abandon — Ville Husso to the Red Wings, Vitek Vanacek to the Devils — the mind wandered to the Islanders and Semyon Varlamov.
Varlamov played 32 games last season and takes a $5 million bite out of the team’s cap sheet. There is some question over the status of Ilya Sorokin, the Islanders’ presumptive starter, who is currently in Russia, per an Instagram post. Assuming he makes it back to North America, however, it will be his show in net. It’s easy to put the puzzle pieces together from there.
Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, however, is holding steadfast to the goaltending tandem he has in place.
“That’s my feeling,” Lamoriello said on the draft floor moments after the seventh round wrapped. “I’ve said it from day one and I feel that way today.”
If you take him at his word, that eliminates one of the clearest moves dangling in front of the Islanders to get some money off the books that can be used for a forward when free agency opens next week.
Nevertheless, it is easy to see why clearing Varlamov’s $5 million off the books could make sense, if not now, then soon.
Lamoriello checked the biggest box of the offseason on Thursday night when he gave up a first-round pick to get defenseman Alexander Romanov, completing the team’s top four with a physical skater who can move the puck alongside Noah Dobson — albeit one with considerable room to grow.
Next on the list: a wing who can take advantage of Mathew Barzal’s prodigious skill.
When eventual contracts for Dobson and Romanov are factored into the cap calculations, though, Lamoriello might have limited room in which to add a forward without making a trade. He also noted, when asked about pending unrestricted free agent Sebastian Aho, that the Islanders plan to re-sign their young players. Kieffer Bellows, who will be hitting restricted free agency, would presumably be counted among that group.
The Islanders also need to keep in the back of their minds that Barzal is due a new contract following the coming season — and assuming he plans to stay on Long Island, as indicated during his exit interview in April, that could well break the bank.
On Friday afternoon, though, Lamoriello exhibited a contented air over his week’s work.
“We got a player we can put in our lineup, so everybody’s happy,” he said. “And then today, we gotta diversify.”
That came in the form of adding Swedish defenseman Calle Odelius with the 65th pick, USHL forward Quinn Finley with the 78th pick, then OHL defenseman Isaiah George with the 98th pick, all within 90 minutes of the proceedings.
If there was a common theme to glean from those selections, it was that the Islanders prioritized skating and upside.
“We got a couple good defensemen,” Lamoriello said. “One we felt very strong on, certainly. We got a goal scorer. Got a young player who’s got tremendous upside.
In the fifth and sixth rounds, the Islanders went with two older players, Matt Maggio and Daylan Kuefler.
“I’m so happy that I ended up with the Islanders,” Odelius said, summing up the general feeling of the draftees. “I know some things about the Islanders, like Long Island, Noah Dobson, Mathew Barzal.”
Barzal, who has proven to be the Islanders’ most recognizable face among the 18-year-old hockey players at the draft, will be the center of intrigue soon enough. For the moment, though, the focus turns to getting the right pieces around him.
“If we can do some things that we feel better positionally, we’re gonna do it,” Lamoriello said. “We’ve tried to do something for our defense. We were fortunate, in my opinion, to get Romanov. Now it’s just, take one thing at a time.”
Islanders draft picks
Position: Left defenseman
Drafted: 2nd round, 65th overall
Weight: 185 pounds
Club: Djugardens (SHL)
What to know: Odelius is an impressive skater, but played just seven games in Sweden’s top division last year and will need to show more at that level, particularly in his physicality.
Position: Left wing
Drafted: 3rd round, 78th overall
Weight: 170 pounds
Club: Madison Capitols (USHL)
What to know: Finley, a Wisconsin commit, is a play-making wing who will have a few years to go in his development, and will need to gain some muscle in that time.
Position: Left defenseman
Drafted: 4th round, 98th overall
Weight: 196 pounds
Club: London Knights (OHL)
What to know: Between George and Odelius, the Islanders prioritized skating in their young defensemen. George had six goals and 17 assists in his first OHL season last year.
Position: Right wing
Drafted: 5th round, 142nd overall
Weight: 187 pounds
Club: Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
What to know: At 19, Maggio is an older prospect, but had a breakout year in 2021-22 with 85 points, scoring 38 goals with 47 assists.
Position: Left wing
Drafted: 6th round, 174th overall
Weight: 192 pounds
Club: Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
What to know: Kuefler is in the same mold as Maggio: an overage prospect who produced at a high level last season. At age 20, Kuefler scored 38 goals with 21 assists for Kamloops last season.