New York Islanders
2021-22 Record: 37-35-10 (84 pts)
Goal differential: 231-237 (-6)
Key Additions: D Alexander Romanov, G Cory Schneider
Key Subtractions: D Zdeno Chara, D Andy Greene
Rumored to be all in on every big free agent name this summer, the Islanders fell flat on their faces and were unable to add a difference maker on the open market. In the end, they add a quality young defender in Romanov … and do really nothing else to improve a team that struggled throughout last season.
Up front, they return a pretty good group of forwards led by star center Mathew Barzal. They have a consistent, productive group, and can roll four lines out that play two-way hockey. It’s a nice group, but outside of Barzal they lack real offensive pop – he’s surrounded by guys whose offensive ceilings are likely in the 50-60 point range. Sounds a lot like the 2018-19 Blue Jackets to me. I think they’ll be enough to make this team playoff worthy if they stay healthy; but if they don’t add some scoring, I don’t think they’re a Cup contender.
Defensively, I think Romanov is a really nice addition to this team. He’s one of the game’s best up and coming young defenders, and he joins an already strong quality top-four including Noah Dobson, Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech. The returning Isles all defend well thanks to former coach Barry Trotz, and several of their blue liners add some offensive pop. Quietly, I think the Isles have a very good defense corps that should make them hard to score on yet again.
In goal, Ilya Sorokin is one of the league’s best kept secrets, and behind this team he could be a dark horse candidate for the Vezina Trophy this season. He’ll be backed up again by Semyon Varlamov, a veteran who gives the Isles a chance to win whenever he’s called upon. This is a pretty good team all-around, although they fired Trotz I do think they’ll be in the mix for a playoff spot. They won’t have a horrific schedule to start the year, anyway.