A minute or two ago when Lou Lamoriello was in the midst of his championship run over at the Meadowlands, “El Exigente” accepted the natural order of free agency, rental trades and revolving personnel as not so different from the four-year cycle of college life. 

So I guess I don’t quite understand how Lamoriello fell in love with the personnel that took the Islanders to the conference finals under the bubble in 2020 and has stubbornly kept this group together — that was a tad too old and tad too slow even then — as if he were presiding over the 1956 Canadiens. 

(Eleven players from the 2020 conference finalists remain with the club, while the Lightning have seven holdovers from the lineup that won the first of their two straight Cups.) 

It is technically true that Lamoriello has not made a trade-deadline deal in four years, but that’s not spiritually accurate in that the GM jumped the market last year to pull off the blockbuster for Bo Horvat … that came with an eight-year, $68 million extension, natch

Never has a marketing expression mirrored reality so accurately: Once an Islander, always an Islander. 

Lamoriello made his big move by bringing Patrick Roy out of his exile to replace Lane Lambert behind the bench, after a show of uncommon patience from the GM and the coach has added an element to the team that had closed within striking distance of a playoff spot off five straight victories. 

Lou Lamoriello was quiet at the NHL trade deadline. Getty Images

But when trade deadline conversations came, the Islanders were absent from public discourse. Lamoriello had his first-rounders for each of the next three years in his quiver while running an operation as win-now as there is in the league. But apparently the Islanders never got in on Noah Hanifin and were never attached to any of the players who might have fortified the club. 

Lamoriello had been traditionally aggressive at or up to the deadline. He pulled among the first rental deals — if not the first — in 1996 in obtaining Phil Housley from Calgary for a few minutes. He traded for Dave Andreychuk the next year, Doug Gilmour the year after that. There were deals for Alex Mogilny and Vladimir Malakhov, the market-jumper for Ilya Kovalchuk and the one on the Island in 2020 for Jean-Gabriel Pageau … that came with a six-year, $30M extension, natch. 

Now, though, deep into his career, Lamoriello has become Stand Pat Lou. Who said an old(er) fellow can’t learn new tricks? 

New York Islanders center Bo Horvat, right, is congratulated by center Mathew Barzal after scoring against the San Jose Sharks during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, March 7, 2024. AP

The lack of a drumbeat surrounding Hanifin seems particularly odd to me unless the 27-year-old pending free agent exercised his limited no-trade clause to steer himself to Vegas the way Vlad Tarasenko used his no-move clause to get to Florida. 

And perhaps the Flames — a generic brand in the wake of losing Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm and Hanifin within the past two years — didn’t put the fifth-overall pick from 2015 out there until too late in the day to stir a brushfire. 

Again, though, in a year where Jake Guentzel wound up representing perhaps the biggest needle mover up front, it is curious that Hanifin did not get more play than he did and that Calgary GM Craig Conroy could not parlay this physically oriented, two-way defenseman into more of a return than he got from Vegas. 

Noah Hanifin of the Vegas Golden Knights skates the puck up ice against the Vancouver Canucks. Getty Images

The Devils have reshaped their operation, and the only question that remains unanswered is why it took so long to A) replace Lindy Ruff behind the bench, and B) address the situation in net? 

The price presumably came down on Montreal goaltender Jake Allen, who started for the Blues at the Coliseum on Dec. 6, 2014 game and was pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots in the first period for … Martin Brodeur, who allowed one goal on 15 shots the rest of the way to record the first victory of his career not for the Devils. 

Marty and Jake back together again. 

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The Devils began play Saturday six points out of a playoff spot with three teams to jump. Time went a-wasting all year. 

Guentzel is an outstanding player who has a history of scoring in the playoffs. For a couple of days last week after the pending free-agent winger was formally placed on the market by GM Kyle Dubas, you’d have thought he was Jaromir Jagr after hearing the supposed demand on the Penguins’ end. 

Ironically, at first blush, it seems like the Penguins might have gotten a package for Guentzel that is indeed similar to the return they got for No. 68 from Washington in 2001. If you can’t recall who was included in that package, there’s good reason. Pittsburgh got three players who played a combined 141 games for the franchise, accounting for 13 goals. 

Jake Guentzel went to the Hurricanes at the NHL trade deadline. NHLI via Getty Images

Out of this supposed stampede to get in line to bid on Sid Crosby’s most productive winger, the Penguins only will get a first-rounder out of it if the Hurricanes advance to the Cup finals. 

Plop. Fizz. 

There was extended debate within the Rangers hierarchy whether the team was ready to add Artemi Panarin when he became a free agent in 2019 or whether the signing would skew expectations by fast-tracking the process to an unsustainable degree. 

So I am reminded once again to guffaw when folks talk about teams rebuilding the right way through the draft, and I notice that the right-way Sabres are about to miss the playoffs for the 13th straight time, the Red Wings are scratching after seven straight misses, the Senators will miss for the seventh straight time and the Ducks are going on six. 

The Golden Knights, they still have some space under their $567 million cap, right? 

And finally, how many times did San Jose GM Mike Grier tell Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon, “Thank you, sir, may I have another?” before the Tomas Hertl deal was complete?