Coming off their best season in 35 years by posting 103 points, the New York Islanders are gaining little respect from New Jersey Sportsbooks.
Finishing just one point behind the Washington Capitals for the Metropolitan Division title, the blossoming of the Isles' defense seems a mirage to oddsmakers, leaving them lower in the Futures book at a consensus 35-1 than they were at this time last July.
Caesars turns thumbs-down on Islanders. Check the Odds.
One predictiment is New York's “unstable” goaltending situation — at least in the eyes of the books — despite a solid season by Robin Lehner.
The funny thing is, NYI management would agree with the books, so are allowing Legner to leave as a free agent, instead electing to sign another free agent in Semyon Varlamov, who spent his last eight seasons tending goal for the Colorado Avalanche.
Despite Lehner's impressive winning numbers (25-13-5, 2.13 GAA, .980 save%), his stats came in just 46 contests after sharing starting duties with Thomas Greiss.
Although one can may the excuse Lehner's poor career numbers — he previously played with doormats in Ottawa and Buffalo — 2019 was his best season. But was it an aberration?
In the NFL, general managers say, “unless you have an elite running back, you can always get a running back.” Same with goalies, so NYI must believe Lehner could be a one-year wonder and chose to go with a goalie with a far better track-record to spend their free agent dollars.
While the mainstream media cries about the loss of Lehner, the smart money is going on the Islanders, but not to win the Stanley Cup or even the Eastern Conference.
Instead, money is going on New York to capture the division crown at odds ranging from +500 to +700. It's a far more attractive — and obtainable — goal with someone considered more consistent in goal, especially since the rival Atlantic Division to top-heavy with Eastern Conference heavyweights such as Tampa Bay, Boston and a team known by Canadian fans as “the Evil Empire” in Toronto.
Lee presses on
Meanwhile, Islanders captain Andres Lee likes the direction and future of the club under head coach Barry Trotz, electing to remain on Long Island just hours after free agency commenced.
Lee never actually held negotiations meeting with any other NHL club, find a 7-year contract more than acceptable.
Lee led the Islanders in goals in each of the past three seasons. He found the situation to his liking, unlike previous NYI captain John Tavares, who signed as a free agent with the Maple Leafs last summer.
Lee's 102 goals are 13th in the NHL since the start of the 2016-17 season. He's netted 25 or more four times in his career, including the past three seasons,
Thus, Islanders president/GM Lou Lamoriello was left with an easy choice to re-sign the 28-year-old left-winger. Lee was joined by a pair of pending unrestricted free agents — Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle — to re-up with the club.