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Islanders: Claiming Sami Vatanen on waivers fits, but it’s complicated

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09: Sami Vatanen #45 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on March 9, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09: Sami Vatanen #45 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on March 9, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders could use a bit more defensive depth as they head towards the playoffs. Specifically on the right side. That’s why claiming Sami Vatanen off waiver from the New Jersey Devils fits.

Vatanen is a 29-year-old right-handed defenseman with 51 games of playoff experience. And in the right situation is a solid two-way defenseman. His one-year deal (with a $2 million cap hit) is set to expire at the end of the year.

With the Devils holding 50% of Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac‘s salaries, the Isles still have $3 million in LTIR space on the cap. Just enough room to add Vatanen. Why not do it already?

Understanding the New York Islanders situation with contract limits

By signing AHL goalie Ken Appleby to a two-year contract earlier this week for expansion draft considerations/goalie depth, the Islanders now sit at 49 of an allowable 50 contract limit. Adding Vatanen puts them at 50.

Which means they have no room to add anyone else to the organization.

That includes players like Collin Adams out of the University of North Dakota. Or Ben Mirageas from Providence College. Both have completed their senior years and are ready to go pro. At the moment the Isles only have room to sign one.

(Logan Cockerill has also completed his senior year for BU, but it seems like he’s staying for a fifth year.)

Of course, that issue could be solved. Mirageas could sign an AHL deal and Adams could sign for next season. Problem solved. But consider that both Robin Salo and Anatolii Golyshev just signed deals for this season. Both will efficiently burn this year of their contract. Who says, Adams, who’s been a top-end player for the number-rated program in the country for two years straight doesn’t want the same treatment?

Remember, he has some leverage here. If the Islanders don’t sign him by August 15, Adams can become a free agent. I guarantee he gets a number of suitors calling for his services if he gets to free agency.

Assuming the Islanders are interested in Vatanen (which is still a debatable topic), the team has to consider a few things (like the Adams and Mirageaus situation) before doing so. In all likely hood, they could wait till he passes through waivers before acquiring via trade for picks and another contract going the Devils way, much like they did with Palmieri and Zajac.

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