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Lou Lamoriello's high-priced additions paying dividends for surging Islanders

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In the hockey world, the value of the NHL Trade Deadline will be debated until the end of days. 

On one hand, it's where the vast majority of mistakes are made. It is all too commonly a low-leverage situation for general managers with aspirations, mostly due to their needs and the built-in time crunch, but also because there is often pressure from superiors looking to sell seats, concessions, and merchandise over the most profitable two-month stretch in hockey. 

For that reason, it's considered the least valuable among tools to achieve lasting results, and instead an avenue best suited to taking shots in the dark, or appeasing executives and fans with something, or someone, that signals even a baseline level of intention.

Sometimes it works, as it did so brilliantly with Marian Gaborik and the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, but more often it doesn't. That just comes down to the simple fact that results determine our conclusions on the successes and failures of general managers, and there's always more failure than there is success. 

Fortunately, it seems lately we've been less hung up on the inevitable mistakes. A large portion of that may be the fact that there's so much turnover in the NHL now, anyway, but I'd also like to think we've wrapped our head around one salient point in hockey and in sports in general: what's the point in going through the motions every season if we're not trying to win championships, or at least put the best possible product out onto the playing surface? 

It's worth something, paying a little extra to be just a little bit better.

UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - APRIL 08:  Kyle Palmieri #21 of the New York Islanders speaks with Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 during the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Coliseum on April 08, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - APRIL 08: Kyle Palmieri #21 of the New York Islanders speaks with Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 during the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at Nassau Coliseum on April 08, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)

That said, even the idea that teams can't be built, or serious foundational pieces laid, in the lead-up to the trade deadline, seems to be losing credibility.

Two seasons ago, the Vegas Golden Knights landed their future captain, Mark Stone, in a deadline acquisition with the Ottawa Senators. And last season, while they avoided the 11th-hour time crunch, the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow in separate deals to formulate an impact third line. 

With one championship already in the bag, Coleman and Goodrow continue to play an important role in Round 3 this summer on a Lightning team gunning for the second of two Stanley Cups.

On Long Island, Lou Lamoriello has introduced something new. Using a multi-deadline approach to improving his squad, the New York Islanders general manager has added a dimension to the team which could end up proving to be the difference between advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, and perhaps winning it all.

Last year, Lamoriello spent a first-round draft pick on the skilled, but mostly industrious, Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Lamoriello caught flak for the acquisition, as Pageau's ceiling didn't exactly justify the price, but the long-time general manager soothed some degree of concern by immediately inking the centre to a long-term contract extension, eliminating the "rental" tag.

With that foundational piece set, this season Lamoriello set out to find his version of Coleman and Goodrow to formulate a game-changing utility line. And unsurprisingly in a deal with his former team, the New Jersey Devils, Lamoriello brought in two familiar faces in Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.

Again, there was hand-wringing over the price: another first-round pick. But if we have agreed to evaluate based on results, then this was nothing short of a home run for Lamoriello.

The Islanders' third line has become the team's second "Identity Line" behind the lasting energy trio of Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin. 

It hasn't been a Picasso in terms of performance metrics, as the line lags behind in shot share and slightly in expected goals, but the 5-1 advantage in (actual) goals while drawing elite competition, such as Boston's "Perfection Line" proves that they are not only serving a purpose, but driving the incredible results the Islanders have achieved with a 9-4 record so far in the postseason.

Palmieri himself has validated the first-round pick expense, and could be the team's Conn Smythe Trophy frontrunner as the club's goals leader. With seven to this point, he's two behind postseason leader Brayden Point, and halfway to matching Gaborik for the most goals scored by an in-season acquisition in a single playoff run. Three more will give him sole possession of second.

It's a copy cat league, even for the most tenured executives. And after picking up on a few trends from other teams still in the running themselves in Vegas and Tampa Bay, Lamoriello has engineered a decisive advantage for the Islanders by wading into territory usually advised against.

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