The New York Islanders announced three signings on July 1. Captain Anders Lee re-signed for seven years, goalie Semyon Varlamov inked a four-year contract and Tom Kuhnhackl is returning for a year.
Here are a few thoughts and observations from the Islanders first day of free agency. For Lee's reaction to staying on Long Island, click here.
VARLAMOV EXCITED TO JOIN ISLES, WORK WITH GOALIE COACHES:
Semyon Varlamov had other offers on July 1, but eschewed them to sign a four-year deal on Long Island. The Russian goalie seemed excited about the prospect for playing for the Islanders for a few reasons, including family life and professional setting.
"I had some different options, but I wanted to sign with the Islanders because I thought this was the right place for me and my family," Varlamov said. "I think this is a strong organization with a great coaching staff. I wanted to be a part of that."
Varlamov cited the Islanders coaching staff, making special note of Islanders Director of Goaltending Mitch Korn and Goaltending Coach Piero Greco. It wasn't lost on Varlamov that Korn and Greco helped Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss turn in career years.
"I've heard a lot of good things from every goalie who worked with those two guys in the past," Varlamov said. "When I had to make a decision, it was actually pretty easy for me because I wanted to work with them and when I had a chance to sign with the Isles, that was an easy decision."
Greiss still has one year left on his deal with the Islanders, so he and Varlamov will share the net next season. That's not an issue for the new Isles netminder, who said he's looking forward to the partnership.
"[Greiss] has been in the league for a long time and he's a great goalie," Varlamov said. "I'm looking forward to working with him and I'm sure we'll have a great relationship working together. We have the same goal, our goal is to help this team to win the Stanley Cup one day."
LAMORIELLO A LONG TIME FAN OF VARLAMOV:
Lou Lamoriello said that he's been high on Varlamov since his days as a prospect and told reporters that he'd even explored trading for the goaltender last summer.
"I remember how he was as a prospect and what his athleticism and ability is," Lamoriello said. "In my opinion, our goaltending staff here is second to none and I rely on their expertise more than my own. They are extremely high on him and have been high on him and certainly endorsed the direction we took."
VARLAMOV AND ILYA SOROKIN:
Varlamov's relationship with Ilya Sorokin was brought up on his introductory conference call. Varlamov and Sorokin - the Isles prized goalie prospect in the KHL - have known each other for three years, according to Varlamov, and share an agent (Paul Theofanus).
"I think he's a very talented goalie, he's the best goalie right now playing in the KHL," Varlamov said.
Lamoriello called the Varlamov-Sorokin relationship a "fringe benefit" to his signing, but laid out the case for why it could be useful down the line. Sorokin has one year left on his existing deal with CSKA Moscow in the KHL and if he were to come over to North America, Varlamov could help his transition to the NHL, especially with obstacles like a language barrier.
"You have a young man with one year left and potentially coming over the next year with a language barrier and now having someone in the same position to possibly look up to," Lamoriello said. "They've played on a couple of teams together, so in my opinion, [it's] absolutely [a factor]."
Varlamov said he had no insight into Sorokin's future, joking that reporters should ask his agent instead.
LEHNER SIGNS WITH BLACKHAWKS:
Monday marked the end of Robin Lehner's tenure with the Islanders, as the goalie inked a one-year deal with Chicago, while the Isles signed Varlamov to a four-year contract. It was a short, but memorable one, as the goalie rehabilitated his life off the ice and had a career-year on it. Lehner won the Bill Masterton Trophy, split the William Jennings Trophy with Thomas Greiss and was nominated for a Vezina Trophy. Off the ice, his story of overcoming mental health struggles, addiction and bi-polar diagnosis turned him into a fan favorite and one of the most inspirational stories in the NHL.
"Unfortunately things didn't work out for different reasons and we have to never look back, we have to go forward," Lamoriello said. "But the personal relationship and how he's touched a lot of people and will continue to do that. He's quality human being, certainly an outstanding goaltender and we wish him the best."
Lee weighed in as well, offering the player perspective.
"It's really tough to see Robin go," Lee said. "Everything that Robin brought to the table outside of his great play, into our room, character guy that's gone through a lot. He really put himself in a great position. I think all of us as teammates are disappointed it didn't work out, but he's got a full group of guys who have his back no matter what. We wish him nothing but the best in Chicago. He'll do great there and I'll be looking forward to watching him play."
"I'M NOT LEAVING!"
Lee, who always represents the organization in the finest fashion as team captain, announced the deal on Twitter. He showed his strong passion for the island and their fans with a link directing people to the"I'm not leaving" clip from the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. Never one to curse in public, the video has some f-bombs but it is meant to show how excited our captain is to be a New York Islander. Ear muffs...
LOU ON LEE:
Lamoriello was asked what it meant to bring back Anders Lee, to which he had this to say.
"We didn't bring him back," Lamoriello said. "He never left."
LOU ON RE-SIGNING LEE, NELSON AND EBERLE:
Lamoriello said he feels good about where the Islanders are at after the first day of free agency, saying he reached his goal of retaining Lee, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle.
"We're very pleased with the end result of this window because it was our intention to sign all of our players who potentially were free agents," Lamoriello said. "We were able to get a couple of them earlier than later, so we feel very good about our team, we feel very good about our core players and having them all back - for the most part - is very important."
As for the hole left by Valtteri Filppula's departure to Detroit, Lamoriello said the vacant center position could be filled internally, saying the Islanders already have their top-three centers solidified in Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas.
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