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Islanders focused on future without Tavares

Lamoriello, Trotz say New York headed in right direction after center signs with Maple Leafs

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

The New York Islanders made every attempt to sign center John Tavares for another eight seasons, but general manager Lou Lamoriello said he isn't about to dwell on Tavares' decision to sign a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday.

"We did everything I think we possibly could to keep John," Lamoriello told SiriusXM NHL Network Radio on Thursday. "He's been an exceptional player for the Islanders and is a quality player. But he now is with another team, so that's the past.

"What we're doing right now is trying to get knowledge of who we are, that (includes) myself, and learning more about each and every one of the players we have here. We'll get [coach] Barry [Trotz] and I and our staff, we'll get prepared for next year.


[RELATED: Tavares should be next Maple Leafs captain, Vaive says: report]


Trotz, appearing on SiriusXM NHL a few hours after Lamoriello, said his players are ready to turn the page on Tavares and are looking forward to the upcoming season.

"I've talked to all the players about what I expect. We're making some good headway," Trotz said. "What's been a blessing, was when John made his decision, the players texted me saying we're going to be just fine. That's a huge step for any organization going forward.

"I think we're heading into the right direction. I know it's a big blow and everyone has the sky falling, but we're a young team. The future is really bright for the Islanders. We're right around the corner of doing something great."

The Islanders staff now includes Lane Lambert, who was hired as associate coach Thursday. Lambert was an assistant coach on Trotz's staff with the Washington Capitals the past four seasons, and was on the bench when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup last month.

The Islanders already were going to look different without Tavares, the No. 1 pick of the 2009 NHL Draft who played the past nine seasons with New York and was its captain since 2013-14. Since his departure, the Islanders have signed forwards Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula and Tom Kuhnhackl, and acquired forward Matt Martin from the Maple Leafs in a trade for goaltender prospect Eamon McAdam on Tuesday. Martin played the first six seasons of his NHL career with the Islanders. Defenseman Thomas Hickey signed a four-year contract to stay with the Islanders, but defenseman Calvin de Haan signed a four-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.

Video: PIT@BUF: Kuhnhackl beats Lehner on penalty shot

"The one thing I've always said and I've said it repeatedly is individual players win games, but teams win championships," Lamoriello said. "I don't think we have to go any further than what [the Vegas Golden Knights] did this past year as far as the job that they did and how they were able to accomplish the success that they had by a group of individuals coming together and having success. That's certainly the foundation, but it certainly is a lot easier when you have players that have been together and have extra talents."

In need of a No. 1 goaltender, the Islanders agreed to terms with Robin Lehner on a one-year contract Tuesday. Between the additions of Lehner and Trotz, Lamoriello expects the NHL-high 293 goals the Islanders allowed last season to decrease significantly.

"As far as the goals-against, I was astonished when I heard that the goals-against last year was the worst not only in the National Hockey League, but was the worst over the last 10 years," Lamoriello said. "So I do know with Barry's style and philosophy that we both have, that that's not going to be too difficult to take care of.

"I think Robin Lehner is a unique case and a unique situation for many reasons. He has something that you can't teach, he has size and he has talent. Hopefully our coaching staff can get him back to the form that he was at. I spent a considerable amount of time with him over the last 48 hours and he's determined to get himself back in the forefront."

Video: Robin Lehner signs one-year deal with the Islanders

After initially announcing the Islanders would return to Nassau Coliseum for 12 games next season, that number increased to 20 last month. The Islanders left the Coliseum at the end of the 2014-15 season for Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They plan to move into a new facility at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, for the start of the 2021-22 season.

"I think it's a great move forward," Lamoriello said. "I have seen plans of the arena and also certainly have spent a considerable amount of time with (co-owner) Scott Malkin, and the commitment to putting the facility here at Belmont is real. It will happen.

"What is the best conduit to get there as far as for the players and for the fans? To have more games at the Coliseum in all our opinions was the right thing to do. The cooperation of the Barclays Center was outstanding, the cooperation of the League to do this, and I know our players from the feedback I've received are excited to do it. Our practice facility, in my opinion, is as good as any in the National Hockey League. They just built it about a year ago and the players really appreciate that. The infrastructure for the future is extremely bright. We have to go through the process that we're going through. The lack of success, we have to get the on-ice product better together. That is the most important thing, but these pieces of infrastructure that are taking place are more important for the future than they are today, but it's really something for the fans to look forward to."

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