Love the craft or hate the craft, Lou Lamoriello made the Islanders better

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Tip of the cap to Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello; he certainly has a flair for the dramatic.

Are you trading for Bo Horvat? Has anyone seen the Islanders pull this off on Monday? I did not do it. But here we are, jaws pounding after another Lamoriello-engineered blockbuster.

In exchange for Horvat, the Vancouver Canucks received a protected first-round pick in the top-12 of the 2023 NHL Draft, prospect Aatu Raty and forward Anthony Beauvillier.

Was that enough for Horvat? Hard for me to say. I don’t know what else could have been offered by other teams. Raty will likely end up being a third line center who can play the lineout if needed. And Beauvillier is an expensive rehabilitation project until his $4.15 million contract expires after the 2023-24 season. I think the first-round pick is really the key for the Canucks.

But I’m not here to rate the trade. I’m here to tell you that the Islanders have improved. That the team’s general manager came out and got the top scorer available. And now it’s up to New York players to fight their way to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

If I was a member of the Islanders, I would be amplified. Horvat has already scored 31 goals this season, including 11 on the power play – something that must have weighed heavily in Lamoriello’s decision to acquire the former Canucks captain.

The Islanders have converted on a measly 15.5 percent of power play attempts this season, second-worst in the NHL. New York’s cumulative shooting percentage is 25th overall. If all goes as planned, Horvat will help in both categories.

The Islanders are two points away from a Stanley Cup playoff spot. Of course, other teams may have matches in progress. But there are still 30 games left to play in New York. It is not excluded that they do the dance.

Lamoriello had to do something. He couldn’t stand his ground after being largely sidelined this past offseason. The Islanders struggled mightily to score goals, and a solution – Horvat – presented itself.

Here’s the most important thing: sometimes it’s less about the player being acquired. And more on messaging in the locker room. Lamoriello just gave his entire team a huge vote of confidence.

I don’t see the Islanders anywhere near a rebuild. And obviously Lamoriello either. By grabbing Horvat, he shows his team that he is not giving up. And neither should they.

Beyond that, Lamoriello must believe he has a strong chance of retaining Horvat after his current deal expires at the end of the season. The Islanders general manager has said in the past that he’d rather not spend on rental players unless he thinks winning the Stanley Cup is a realistic endeavor.

Think about it a bit. Do the Islanders really have a chance of winning the Lord Stanley Cup this season? Probably not, even with goaltender Ilya Sorokin performing in-net feats almost every night. New York is probably still a puck-moving defenseman and some depth up front far from being a real contender.

So for me, it’s clearly a long Lamoriello piece. He is used to retaining players obtained during the season via trade. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri are two recent examples.

And for me, that’s why Lamoriello was willing to give up a center hope like Raty. Horvat turns 28 in April. He is at the peak of his career. And if the Islanders can convince him to stay on board, that’s a huge plus.

The best centers in the NHL are rarely up for grabs at such a young age. And a player like Horvat should have been a centerpiece for the Canucks in the future. It’s still hard to believe that Vancouver decided to let their captain go.

I am well aware that this is a career year for Horvat in terms of production. He crushes it. And maybe it’s due to a regression. But is he a safe bet compared to Raty? You bet it is. And Lamoriello knows it. The GM veteran didn’t have time to wait for the young Finn to develop. And his ceiling was an unknown.

Maybe it’s a bit crowded at the top of the Islanders’ depth chart in the middle. But I don’t see that as a problem. I think Horvat would look great lined up with Mathew Barzal, who has long needed a teammate who can finish.

Barzal is right-handed and can play on the wing. Horvat is left-handed and can do the same. They can even alternate face-offs based on location. For me, attacking positions have become somewhat interchangeable with the way teams play. So I see no concern that the Islanders are deep in the middle.

The main thing for me is that Lou Lamoriello just made a move that was necessary for his team. Was it the greatest trade of all time? No. Neither the Canucks nor the Islanders are winners of this long-term agreement.

But the Horvat trade was not in five or ten years. It’s almost now. It’s about next year and the season after. Lou Lamoriello is not in the business of reconstruction. He’s in the business of winning Stanley Cups. And it is ready to take advantage of the future.


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