The New York Islanders are likely facing a cap crunch for the 2020-2021 season. Finding talent on ELC’s is a way for them to get over that hump.
With Mathew Barzal, Devon Toews, and Ryan Pulock needing new contracts the likelihood of the Islanders going out and being able to add a top free agent is going to be extremely difficult. Heck, even adding a veteran via trade is going to be tough without the help of compliance buyouts.
If we’re operating with the assumption that Mathew Barzal, Devon Toews, and Ryan Pulock will combine for a cap hit somewhere around $19 million for next year, there won’t be much of any room left to add.
Without a doubt, the biggest need for this team is additional offensive support. What if the Islanders finally gave the youth a chance under Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz?
Arguably my biggest gripe with the Lamoriello and Trotz era is the reluctance to give younger players a shot over worse veterans. For instance, both Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows were used on a very limited basis this past season.
For Bellows, he played in eight games putting up three points while averaging just 10:39 per game. Bellows never played more than 12:44 in a game and was more often than not playing with guys who wouldn’t help him offensively.
The same thing could be said about Oliver Wahlstrom. In nine games he played 10:17 per night on average. After 15:13 in his first game and 13:11 in game two, he would never hit 12 minutes again and played under 10 minutes four times.
What the limited stats don’t show you is some underlying numbers that could help the Islanders offense. When on the ice, Wahlstrom had a 52.63 scoring chances for percentage and a 64.52 high danger chances for percentage.
He was second in both of those categories. Now, obviously, in a nine-game sample, those numbers are a little inflated but what if he, and Bellows for that matter, played a full season in a position to succeed?
In 2020-2021, the Islanders could theoretically use a lineup like this to try to get some production from someone making $925,000 and $894,166:
Beauvillier – Barzal – Eberle
Lee – Nelson – Bailey
Bellows – Pageau – Wahlstrom
Komarov – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
Remember in 2014-2015, the Islanders had a kid line? Well, they could do that again with Bellows and Wahlstrom centered by JG Pageau. Pageau will be here for the foreseeable future and he’s one of the best third line centers in the game.
Who better to learn to play a full two-way game from? It’s not like putting them with the corpse of Derrick Brassard and Michael Dal Colle. You’d be putting the two youngsters on the wing with a center who was on pace for 32 goals before the season ended.
Sure, it’s unfair to expect Pageau to produce at a 50 point pace and 30 goal clip again for next year, but if he can give the Islanders 40 points and potentially spark a couple of 20 goal scorers who are making essentially nothing against the cap, it could be huge for the Islanders.
It would be a drastic change from the vanilla that the line has seen with Leo Komarov and Michael Dal Colle. They’re fine defensively but they don’t move the needle forward at all offensively.
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With the cap situation and the state of the Islanders offense, I’d be willing to take the chance of playing Bellows and Wahlstrom in the lineup. There’s a reason why you took these kids in the first round, for Bellows four years ago and for Wahlstrom two, let’s see what they have.