The Islanders make a smart move with Anthony Duclair. Do they still need more?

When you have barely any cap space heading into July 1, it’s easy to appear calm and collected. The New York Islanders didn’t sit back as the deals rolled by on Monday because they necessarily wanted to but because they had to — there was no way, with less than $5.5 million in cap space for 2024-25 and a slew of long-term deals on the books, that Lou Lamoriello would be in there swinging for the fences for top-six wingers like Jake Guentzel, Jake DeBrusk or Steven Stamkos, all of whom were gone before the bell rang at noon on long-term, big-money deals.

That Lamoriello was able to fill needs at all with the two signings he made was smart. Retaining Mike Reilly on a one-year, $1.25 million deal was smart; Reilly, claimed off waivers from the Florida Panthers in November, fit very well with what Patrick Roy wanted out of this team when he took over as coach two months after Reilly arrived. The 30-year-old ended up as the second leading scorer among defensemen with 24 points in 59 games.

And Lamoriello, as he always does, stuck to his price even as Reilly balked at a similar offer nearly two months ago, opting to see what he could get from another team. That search didn’t last long and the Islanders got their sixth defenseman, rounding out what will be a very familiar D-corps but one that should benefit from a full training camp under Roy and with a new assistant coach, longtime Lamoriello employee Tommy Albelin, coming in to run the defense.

The new addition, Anthony Duclair, is even smarter, especially on a four-year deal worth $3.5 million. Duclair is the rare UFA who makes the Islanders younger and faster; this will be his ninth team since he debuted as a 19-year-old with the New York Rangers in 2014-15 so there are obviously some faults in his game, but he is skilled and he can score. He managed 16 goals in 56 games for the woeful San Jose Sharks last season before a deadline trade to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he had 15 points in 17 games for a more legit team.

Duclair is also familiar with Roy, having played for him in Quebec of the QMJHL in Duclair’s first two junior seasons. That was a lifetime ago for both of them but Duclair is coming into a tight-knit room and could use any assistance in the transition he can get. Roy called Duclair on Monday morning and that helped push this deal over the line.

“When a coach calls you and tells you that he wants you on his team, it’s hard to say no,” Duclair said. “Especially someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for. … I don’t think it will be any different from junior to now. I don’t think he’s changed and that’s in a good way.”

The question remains: Do the Islanders need more alterations? To do anything else would require subtracting from the current roster, since after the Duclair and Reilly signings the Islanders have roughly $1 million in cap space assuming KHL import Maxim Tsyplakov is on the roster. Duclair played on a line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau in Ottawa several years ago but you’d have to think Roy has higher hopes for the newest Islander, who meshed quite well on the Lightning’s top line this past season and seemingly could do the same with Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal now.

Simon Holmstrom needs a new deal, even if it’s for barely over his qualifying offer. Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin are still out there but either one would have to sign for less than $1 million to return — and both returning seems impossible now.

We’ll presume a Holmstrom deal and here’s what the opening night lineup could look like:

Anthony Duclair – Bo Horvat – Mat Barzal
Maxim Tsyplakov – Brock Nelson – Kyle Palmieri
Anders Lee – J-G Pageau – Pierre Engvall
Simon Holmstrom – Casey Cizikas – Kyle MacLean

Alexander Romanov – Noah Dobson
Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock
Mike Reilly – Scott Mayfield
(Samuel Bolduc)

Ilya Sorokin
Semyon Varlamov

There are still lots of familiar names on there. Having a $7 million third-line wing in Lee is less than ideal; if Clutterbuck returns, it’s an easy path to seeing Lee as the 13th forward, if there’s enough cap space for such a thing. If — a big if — Tsyplakov can adjust to the NHL game quickly and if Duclair meshes well on the top line, the Islanders have changed their look quite a bit. They’ve gotten younger, a bit heavier up top without sacrificing skill and faster as well.

Provided Lamoriello doesn’t want to move Lee or Pageau, the rest of the change will have to come from within. This group has gone to the “they’ve all counted us out” well before, but that was a few years ago when everyone was a bit younger and fresher. And the last two seasons, with the big addition of Horvat and the big move from Lane Lambert to Roy, have produced two mad dashes to the playoffs and two quick exits.

That’s not a long-term plan. The Romanov-Dobson pair could be a really good one for years to come, though both need new contracts after next season. The other four defensemen will be over 30 when the season begins; so will half of the forwards.

Lamoriello did good work on Monday. The squeeze the Islanders are in is entirely of the GM’s making, with term and cap space eaten up by role players like Engvall and Mayfield and declining veterans like Lee. It is still an admirably close group here and that’s not a small thing — if they’re not going to be Stanley Cup contenders, you at the very least want players who like each other and like being Islanders. Every fan over the age of 20 can remember a time when that wasn’t the case.

But with ticket prices escalating at UBS Arena, this still doesn’t quite feel like a win-now team. As we’ve said often, a massive turnaround season from Sorokin could change all that. The New Jersey Devils got themselves a goalie in a trade and added a slew of veteran defensemen on Monday. The Washington Capitals have similarly overhauled their roster, though to what effect we will still have to see.

The Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes remain the class of the Metro until someone shows otherwise. For now, three months until the season starts, the Islanders are where they left off in May: a borderline playoff team with only playoff-upset aspirations.

Things can change. And Lamoriello was extremely smart with his moves on Monday. We will see if that is enough.

(Photo of Anthony Duclair: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images)

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