The New York Islanders posed together for the annual team picture on Monday morning, one of their last official duties before cleaning out their lockers and breaking for the offseason.
When the players reconvene on Long Island next September, there will inevitably be a different look, as all teams tinker with their lineups in the offseason. The question is with nine pending unrestricted free agents Anders Lee, Robin Lehner, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle, Valtteri Fillpula, Tom Kuhnhackl, Tanner Fritz, Dennis Seidenberg and Luca Sbisa, whether there will many changes, or just a few.
"They did a tremendous job this year. We will have to see how we can fit them all in," Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello said of the pending UFAs. "We'd like to have them back without question. They have to make decisions and we have to make decisions, but they are all quality human beings and quality players and they've been an integral part of this organization this year."
Video: Locker Clean Out 2019: Lou Lamoriello
Lamoriello was specifically asked about Lehner, who had a career season after inking a one-year deal with the Islanders last summer. Lehner went 25-13-5 with a 2.13 GAA, a .930 SV% and a career-high six shutouts, en route to being named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy (top goaltender) and Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (perseverance and dedication to hockey). Lehner also split the William Jennings Trophy (fewest goals against) with Thomas Greiss.
"We'd like Robin back, without question," Lamoriello said.
Lehner said he enjoyed his time as an Islander and is open to coming back next season.
"I can't say enough, I think everyone knows where I stand," Lehner said. "I obviously love this group. I like my teammates and the organization and everything. There haven't been any talks between my camp or the team as of yet. I look forward to seeing what they say and what the future holds."
Video: Locker Clean Out 2019: Robin Lehner
Lamoriello was also asked specifically about Lee, who was given the Islanders captaincy at the onset of the season. Lee led the Islanders with 28 goals this season, his third straight 25+ goal year.
"You would and could not find a finer captain," Lamoriello said. "He did a tremendous job and as I've said all along, we're going to do everything we possibly can to keep him."
Lee said he planned to leave talks between Lamoriello and his agent.
"People know how I feel about this place and right now Lou and my agent are going to figure that out," Lee said.
Video: Locker Clean Out 2019: Anders Lee
Lamoriello said he's planning to take a step back and reflect on the season. He was proud of the way the Islanders embraced the changes he and Head Coach Barry Trotz implemented, which helped guide the team to a 103-point season and the second round of the playoffs.
Trotz echoed Lamoriello's sentiment. He expressed pride in the Islanders ability to go from the most goals against in 2017-18 to the fewest in 2018-19 and for numerous players to take steps forward in their careers. The coach said he'd leave player procurement up to the GM, but said he recognized a need for more scoring, especially in the wake of the Islanders scoring five goals in four games of their series against Carolina.
"If you look at the playoffs, we need a little more pop up front," Trotz said. "That's hopefully coming in the draft a little bit through some of the kids, free agency obviously Lou will be looking at that and obviously our own free agents. Our goaltending seems to be fine, our defense has grown. A little more pop up front. You talk about character and grit we've got lots of that. A little more pop if anything."
Video: Locker Clean Out 2019: Barry Trotz
A few of the players commented on the team's close-knit chemistry this season, saying they're hopeful that the pending free agents can find ways to come back and build off of this season.
"Going into next season, a lot could be the same, or a lot could be very different," Ryan Pulock said. "Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. It's obviously out of my control, but the type of people we have in this room - off the ice - is unbelievable. Just how everyone got along and bonded. From that aspect, you really hope all those guys are back. Obviously there's more it than that and we'll see what happens."