Lou Lamoriello joined the TSN TradeCentre broadcast with James Duthie to discuss the team’s deadline moves — adding Tomas Plekanec and standing pat otherwise — as well as club’s level of interest in Ryan McDonagh.
Pierre Lebrun reported that you were in on Ryan McDonagh. How far in and how serious were you about acquiring the New York Rangers defenseman, who ended up in Tampa Bay?
Lamoriello: First of all, no matter what you’re doing all day, you’re inquiring about who could possibly help you. We certainly inquired about Ryan McDonagh. As far as how far we were in on it: Obviously not far enough because he ended up in Tampa Bay.
It’s fair to say there was no chance you would give up a Mitch Marner or a William Nylander in any deals. Is it fair to say that?
Lamoriello: Yes, I think that’s a fair assessment.
Is there any concern to you that a defenseman like that, who you clearly had interest in, ends up with one of the teams that you’ll likely have to beat to get out of that division?
Lamoriello: First of all, you do not think like that. We look at ourselves and we feel good about ourselves with the way our club has come along and the improvement of our young players and the development. That’s the course that we are going to stay on. We have to feel that way because we believe in it. I know the job that our coaching staff has done to bring these players along in the right direction so that we can have a period of time where this franchise can be contending year in and year out.
Knowing you had interest in McDonagh, did you have any interest in any other defensemen on this day and did you feel your D needed an upgrade?
Lamoriello: Well, I think we’ve gone far enough on what we were thinking of what interest we might have had. I think the most important thing is that our team is one that we believe in and we are happy with. Right now, we just have to get prepared to play against Tampa.
You said chemistry is important, and you have a team that is one of the best in the NHL over the last month. That month and the fact that you’ve seen that chemistry — is that one of the reasons you were content with just making the Plekanec move?
Lamoriello: I don’t think just because of chemistry, but because of the improvement of our players and also the play of our veterans and how they’ve blended together. As I said often today, we are happy with our hockey team. You always want to get better, but never at the expense of subtracting.
Right now, we did have the opportunity [yesterday] to get Tomas Plekanec and he fits right in with what we are trying to do and where we are going. He is a consummate professional and he can play. He knows how to play the game and we’ve solidified our center position, which I think we all know how important that is.
How specifically does Plekanec make you better?
Lamoriello: Well, he will be able to go up in the lines depending on how the coach wants to use him. He is an excellent penalty killer, excellent on faceoffs, and can play in any situation during the game. Defensively — as we all know, it’s extremely important — he’ll be able to spell some of the people who have really taken the burden of playing against the top lines at different times. We feel good about it.
He has also played in this division, which is also very important, and he has had to play against the top lines. He will not have to do that here.
With the deadline now in the past, now you knowa your roster. You know what you have for the rest of the season. This roster, as you see it, is it an elite Stanley Cup contender?
Lamoriello: That’s a very difficult question to answer. Right now, I think we are one of the top teams in the NHL. It’s up to us to remain consistent with our play and do the things that have to do be done to have success. This is a league of parity. We all know that and have seen that year in and year out now. As far as starting to make any predictions, I think we are getting way ahead of ourselves. I know all of us would like to have that happen, but we still have a ways to go. Right now, we are pleased with where we are at. All we have to do is concentrate on getting better.
What do you like best about your team?
Lamoriello: As I said, I like best that we have gotten better throughout the year. Right now, certainly, we are playing as well as we have played on a consistent basis. It’s up to us to stay there. We can’t have highs and we can’t have lows. We just have to stay within ourselves and have everyone understand what their role is, which they do, and not get out of it. Understand that the most important thing is the end result and we need each other to get that accomplished.
Lou Lamoriello Media Scrum
On sticking with the group outside of the addition of Plekanec:
We are extremely pleased with this group. It’s obvious because we had three free agents and we kept them. What we were set out to do is to try to add a centerman who has experience and we were able to do that. If we could’ve done something else that would’ve made us better and not subtracted in areas that we didn’t want to subtract in, we would’ve done that. It didn’t happen.
On Tampa Bay’s additions of Ryan McDonagh and JT Miller:
They acquired a great player, certainly, in McDonagh. And Miller is an excellent player. Everybody has an opportunity to do something, and they certainly made a big splash today.
On keeping the pending UFAs in JVR, Bozak and Komarov:
I think that chemistry is important, but I think with the way our team has been playing, we have confidence in our team. Right now, we’re still in a process of where we want to be and where we want to go. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We just want to stay on the right path.
On the balancing act of keeping them for the run but having players that might walk for free:
I don’t know if you had to take too long to weigh it. I think you look at where your team is and the players you have. If you had the reverse, you’d go out and get players like that and pay a price for it when you already have them, as far as helping the team. It wasn’t that difficult to make those decisions. In fact, there wasn’t much time spent on it.
On the number of first-round picks dealt in the league in the past 24 hrs:
I was a little surprised by the number of first-round picks, yes. But I shouldn’t say surprised because every time we think something is going to happen, something else happens. But everyone has a choice to make, whatever is best for their team.
On whether the development of Travis Dermott plus the prices in the market played roles in standing pat on defense:
There is no question that the development of Dermott has played a role in a lot of our thought process. But if we could’ve added someone that would’ve made us better and not have subtracted, we certainly would have done that. But that did not happen.
On whether it was an active or quiet day overall:
I think you’re always active. It’s different types of conversations that take place. I always like to do things in advance as best as you can because it’s very difficult to try to do things at the last minute and you might make a decision that is really not right for the team.
On what was appealing about Tomas Plekanec:
He is a player that I have had an opportunity to see quite a bit and also a player that has played against Toronto quite a bit and Boston. That looks like the logical playoff opponent if everything stays as is, which could always possibly change. He’s had success there in the role that he plays. He’s a consummate professional. He’ll really help our kids — no different than what Patrick Marleau and Ron Hainsey and Dominic Moore have done to show exactly what has to be done and how important it is to be a professional. We feel he is going to help us — not only on the ice, but off the ice.
On making a trade with a rival like the Canadiens:
It never really entered in on it. For me, it is not the same as the way it’s looked upon by people who have been in Toronto for a long time. I don’t think that should ever get in the way of trying to help your hockey team.
On the four remaining callups the rest of the year and how they might be used:
We’ll have Dermott and Kapanen so that they could be on the Marlies roster and then recall them. We’ll have two recalls after that.