1. Re-sign Tavares
The biggest item on Lamoriello’s to-do list is to convince John Tavares, New York’s captain and first-line center, to re-sign. Tavares, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, can become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and has said that winning is his top priority. It will be up to Lamoriello to convince Tavares he can turn the Islanders around quickly after they missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs each of the past two seasons. New York finished 35-37-10 this season, 17 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card from the Eastern Conference.
2. Find No. 1 goaltender
The Islanders allowed 296 goals this season, the most in the NHL. Jaroslav Halak can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, and Thomas Greiss has yet to live up to the three-year, $10 million contract he signed Jan. 30, 2017. Ilya Sorokin, a third-round pick (No. 78) in the 2014 NHL Draft and their prized goalie prospect, has two years remaining on his contract in the Kontinental Hockey League. It’s in Lamoriello’s hands to find a No. 1 goaltender before training camp.
3. Acquire top defenseman
The Islanders’ inability to keep the puck out of their net this season wasn’t solely the fault of the goaltending. They never replaced Travis Hamonic after trading him to the Calgary Flames at the 2017 NHL Draft, and their top defense pair of Nick Leddy (minus-42) and Johnny Boychuk (missed 24 games to injury) didn’t play up to expectations. Calvin de Haan (who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1) sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in December and was never properly replaced. The Islanders have two first-round picks (Nos. 11 and 12) at the 2018 NHL Draft; will Lamoriello attempt to trade one for a top defenseman?
4. Coaching staff
Doug Weight had an impressive three months as coach after replacing Jack Capuano on Jan. 17, 2017, and got off to a good start in his first full season (15-7-2). But the Islanders tailed off significantly over the final four months, to the point where New York was allowing 40 or more shots nearly every game. Lamoriello must decide quickly if Weight will be his coach or if there will be other changes to what was mainly a new staff this season.
5. Upgrade bottom-six forwards
Regardless of what Tavares does, Lamoriello must improve a bottom-six forward group that was often invisible this season. Andrew Ladd, who signed a seven-year contract July 1, 2016, went long stretches without a goal and finished with 12 in 73 games. Cal Clutterbuck, who has four years remaining on his contract, scored his last goal of the season Jan. 13. To make matters worse, the Islanders finished last in the NHL on the penalty kill (73.2 percent), an area where they’ll need to improve dramatically next season.