Lou Lamoriello got the center he needed, but not the winger he wanted.
In a hectic deadline day, the Islanders general manager landed veteran center Jean-Gabriel Pageau from the Senators to bolster an injury-riddled group of forwards for three picks, including a conditional first-rounder this year. However, he missed out on a reunion with former Devils captain Zach Parise, unable to get a deal done with the Wild.
“I don’t know what the definition of close is,” Lamoriello said. “You always think there’s something that could potentially happen but until it materializes, you weren’t close.”
According to The Athletic, Lamoriello was working with the Wild on a “complicated deal” that would have included winger Andrew Ladd as part of the return to Minnesota.
Lamoriello, though, did finish the deal for Pageau, a 27-year-old with 24 goals and 16 assists in 40 games this season, for a conditional first-round pick in 2020, a second-round pick in 2020 as well as a conditional third-rounder in 2022. The first-rounder is top-three protected; if the Islanders end up with a top-three pick, the Senators will instead receive the Isles’ 2021 first-rounder.
The Islanders then signed Pageau to a six-year contract extension with a $5 million annual salary-cap hit.
“Obviously, it was a lot of emotion, a lot of mixed feeling in the last few days,” Pageau said on a conference call. “It was my first time going through something like this. It was hard. Ottawa was home for me and I’m so thankful for everything they did for me. For all the opportunities and the chance that they gave me.
“But at the same time, I’m so excited to get it going. Right now, I can only thank Lou Lamoriello to have that confidence in me.”
After losing winger Cal Clutterbuck to wrist surgery and fourth-line center Casey Cizikas to a leg laceration, the Islanders needed reinforcements up-front although Clutterbuck may return next week.
“First of all, we felt that with our lineup, to solidify down the middle, we needed a center iceman,” Lamoriello said. “In particular, a right shot. There were very few and far between. And when you’re looking at a center, you try and get a complete player that can play in all situations. Certainly, this young man fit the bill.”
On Feb. 16, Lamoriello did the same for the Islanders’ defensive unit, which has been without top defenseman Adam Pelech since early January due to season-ending Achilles surgery. Lamoriello acquired veteran defenseman Andy Green from the Devils, sending them a 2021 second-round pick and defenseman prospect David Quenneville.
Pageau, who collected 182 career points in 428 games with the Senators, was playing on the first line for Ottawa. He’ll likely slot in to the Islanders’ bottom six to restore the depth they’ve lost due to injury.
Every game going forward holds weight for the Islanders, who currently sit with 76 points and occupy the first wild-card spot. They’re one point behind the Flyers for third place in the Metropolitan Division, but just two points ahead of the Blue Jackets, who are the first team below the playoff line in the Eastern Conference.
But the Islanders are now seemingly all patched up from the blows they took during the regular season.
Pageau certainly thinks so, expressing his excitement to join a team that will be “competing every year for the playoffs, for the championship.”
The Islanders capped off their busy trade-deadline day by shoring up their defensive depth, adding AHL righty Jordan Schmaltz from the Toronto organization in exchange for Bridgeport forward Matt Lorito.