Islanders: Wahlstrom, Bellows Back Down to Taxi Squad, Sorokin Returns
By Ryan Grosso
New York Islanders forwards Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom have been sent back to the taxi squad as of Friday afternoon, according to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple.
Goaltender Ilya Sorokin, who found himself on the taxi squad on Thursday prior to the 6-3 Islanders loss to the Washington Capitals, has been recalled to the NHL roster.
The move comes on the back-end of an ugly Thursday loss in which the Islanders could’ve used a backup goaltender to replace Semyon Varlamov. Corey Schneider, the third goalie on the Islanders NHL roster, held down backup duties on Thursday but was never called upon in spite of a below-par performance from Varlamov.
New York Islanders roster gymnastics continue
First off, many thanks to Michel Anderson, who took time out of his Friday night to help me and my smooth brain understand the NHL’s roster rules. Also, thanks to CapFriendly, who had all the salary and roster information used in this article.
The Islanders will play a weekend back-to-back against the Philadelphia Flyers starting Saturday night at 7 p.m. Prior to that, I’d expect they’ll recall the young wingers, as Barry Trotz told Newsday’s Andrew Gross that he “didn’t have any worries about [Wahlstrom and Bellows]” following Thursday night’s disastrous result.
The problem, once again, becomes one of managing the Islanders salary cap and roster space. According to CapFriendly, adding Wahlstrom and Bellows with Sorokin would put the team ~$520,000 over the team’s $6 million LTIR salary cap relief for the Johnny Boychuk contract. The move would also put them over the maximum NHL roster size of 23 players.
So, who goes to the taxi squad in the interest of letting the young guys get lineup spots? Leo Komarov seems like a pretty good candidate to me. Moving Leo to the taxi squad frees up $1.075 million in LTIR money, which gets the Islanders in just below their cap ceiling.
Even better, Komarov has already cleared waivers in the last 30 days, so he won’t need to go through them again, which means no 24-hour waiting period for his cap hit to come off the books. The Islanders simply have to file the transactions before 5 p.m. Saturday for all the moves to be eligible.
Komarov spent time on the left side of Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey, and later on the right side of J.G. Pageau and Bellows on Thursday. He didn’t bring a whole lot of anything to his time on the second line, and Pageau and Bellows were less effective with Leo than with Wahlstrom.
With Anthony Beauvillier unavailable until the end of this weekend due to his placement on the injured reserve list, I wouldn’t mind seeing Michael Dal Colle fill the open gap on the left side of the second line. That isn’t an ideal fit for many reasons, not the least of which is that we’ve seen him in that spot before, and it wasn’t great.
That is one possibility for the Islanders to get Wahlstrom and Bellows back into the lineup on Saturday. Whether it will happen or not I have no clue. Barry Trotz has had nothing but good things to say about Komarov.
But, giving Wahlstrom and Bellows another game flanking Pageau should be a top priority, because for stretches of Thursday’s game the third line looked better than it has all season.