Bridgeport, Conn., and a long road trip — not the Nassau Coliseum — will be temporary solutions if UBS Arena at Belmont Park is not ready for the start of the 2021-22 season, Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said Tuesday.
“I expect us to be on the road at the beginning of the year.” Lamoriello said. “We have not seen our schedule. There are other teams — the Rangers, the Devils, the Flyers, the Bruins — that are in a proximity where it would not be as taxing on our players. … If you are playing well on the road and you are winning, it is like you are not on the road.”
He added: “We will play home preseason games, as of this moment, in Bridgeport.”
Lamoriello has a busy offseason ahead of him. He touched on several issues Tuesday during a conference call with reporters:
— Casey Cizikas, Andy Greene, Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac are unrestricted free agents. The Islanders are in a tight salary cap situation, but Lamoriello will at least try to keep his core together.
“We will do everything we can to have [Cizikas] back,” Lamoriello said. “He expressed his desire to come back. But when you get to free agency, [he] can make the decision for [him].”
Added Lamoriello: “[Palmieri] would be someone that we would certainly have a strong intention to bring back if possible.”
That is just half the battle, as Anthony Beauvillier, Michael Dal Colle, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin headline his restricted free-agent (RFA) class. Last offseason, Lamoriello was forced to trade RFA Devon Toews to the Avalanche. This time around, he intends to bring all his RFAs back.
Nonetheless, he knows some players will be playing for new teams.
“We will do everything we can to keep the core together,” Lamoriello said. “It will be impossible. … There is not a stone we will not turn over.”
— Jean-Gabriel Pageau had hand surgery Monday after playing the postseason injured. He will be ready for training camp.
Captain Anders Lee will also “100 percent” be ready for training camp, according to Lamoriello.
— Andrew Ladd has two years remaining on his seven-year, $38.5 million contract. He is healthy, meaning the long-term injured reserve is not currently an option.
“What [Ladd’s] future is, I cannot answer,” Lamoriello said. “But he is under contract.”
— Johnny Boychuk was forced to retire last offseason due to an eye injury. While he could not play, Boychuk was a secret weapon for the Islanders, leading practices, shadowing Lamoriello and giving advice to younger players.
Boychuk will be offered a similar role next season.
“What [Boychuk] brought to the game and what he brought to his teammates was something special,” Lamoriello said. “I have not sat down with him yet before he leaves for Canada. We will ask him if he wants to continue working with us in the role he was in. He still has a player mentality. He is very valuable.”
— Even though the Islanders came up just short in the Eastern Conference finals, Lamoriello said the team brought pride to Long Island.
“It was just a proud time,” Lamoriello said. “You could not be more proud of this group, both on and off the ice.”
— Lamoriello said he is fully healthy and will continue to serve as Islanders general manager. But when doing so, he showcased his sense of humor.
He jokingly asked if a reporter was coming for his job and gave some insight into why he was on a conference call and not a Zoom meeting: “Maybe, I do not want to be on the Zoom call because I do not want to look at all of you!”
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