The New York Islanders‘ focus is on the current season and making sure they land one of the four playoffs spots in their brutal 2020-21 division. However, Lou Lamoriello and his team have a big decision coming up after this season regarding their protection list for the Seattle Expansion Draft.
The New York Islanders will go with the seven forwards – three defenseman – one goaltender protection list route. Six of the forward spots are easy choices in Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, J.G Pageau, Anthony Beauvillier, and Jordan Eberle. On the blue line and in net Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, and Semyon Varlamov will be protected as well (Ilya Sorkin is exempt).
That leaves one open forward spot and one slot from the blue line. That’s where the Isles pending expansion decision comes into play.
Leddy or Mayfield
Leddy turns 30 in a couple of weeks and is signed for one more year with a 5.5 million dollar cap number. The Isles and Barry Trotz are very high on Leddy. However, if they were to protect Leddy and expose Mayfield he would be gobbled up by Seattle Kraken’s GM Ron Francis.
If the Isles wanted to protect Leddy and sign him to an extension this off-season, they would have to trade Mayfield after this season is over and before the Expansion Draft. The Isles would get a strong return for Mayfield who is a quality defenseman with a great cap number. Lamoriello might even be able to package a Thomas Hickey or Leo Komarov in the deal to help next year’s salary cap and still net a quality return.
The Islanders could protect Mayfield and hope Seattle doesn’t take Leddy. That wouldn’t be a given considering he just turned 30, is an unrestricted free agent in one year and the Isles will also be exposing a couple of talented young forwards.
Last Forward Spot
The Isles’ last forward spot will not be going to Josh Bailey (signed for 3 more years at a $5 million annual cap number). Instead, it will either go to Michael Dal Colle, Otto Koivula, or Kieffer Bellows.
It’s taken a while but slowly Dal Colle is becoming a productive third-line winger. Trotz is always mentioning him and the big winger doesn’t turn 25 until late June.
However, if the Isles are going to be unable to resign pending UFA Casey Cizikas due to next year’s cap issues then they need to protect Koivula. Even though he hasn’t played a lot in the NHL Koivula is a 22-year old, 6’4, 219 lbs. center. If exposed Francis will give him strong consideration. If the Isles are going to lose Cizikas because of the cap the Koivula has to be protected.
Then we get to Bellows. The 2016 first-round pick who turns 23 in June has yet to hit his NHL stride but clearly, he has talent. Will Bellows become a top-six winger or a bottom-six one, that’s the question.
Interesting to note in the 2016 Draft when the Islanders selected Bellows 19th overall, Carolina which was then run by Francis had the 13th and 21st overall picks. At 13 Francis selected defenseman Jake Bean (over Long island’s Charlie McAvoy who went at 14 to Boston) and at 21 the Canes selected Julien Gauthier (who is now with the NY Rangers).
If Bellows was still on the board when Francis picked at 21 would he have taken him?
Any way you slice it odds are the Islanders will lose a good player come expansion night. The question is who.