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Islanders: 3 Takeaways from Season-Ending 1-0 Loss in Game 7

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JUNE 25: Mathew Barzal #13, Ryan Pulock #6 and Matt Martin #17 of the New York Islanders react after their team's 1-0 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Seven of the NHL Stanley Cup Semifinals during the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Amalie Arena on June 25, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - JUNE 25: Mathew Barzal #13, Ryan Pulock #6 and Matt Martin #17 of the New York Islanders react after their team's 1-0 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Seven of the NHL Stanley Cup Semifinals during the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Finals at Amalie Arena on June 25, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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New York Islanders
Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

3. 2021-22 Could be a Season of Change for Islanders

With their playoffs only just having ended on Friday night, it might feel a little bit premature to already be talking about the Islanders 2021-22 season. But the reality is that the team and its management will have a lot of work to do to in order to reach the lofty heights they’ve hit in these last two seasons.

The bubble playoffs and this most-recent failure to capture a championship may feel like failures to the fanbase right now, but the reality is it is supremely difficult just to reach this point of the playoffs in the modern NHL.

The Lightning, Islanders, and Vegas Golden Knights all reached the final four both this season and in the 2020 summer playoff bubbles. But Vegas and Tampa boast two of the best rosters in the league, and the Islanders, while deep and disciplined and full of fight, just aren’t in the same category when you measure the top-ends of all three rosters against one another.

With this summer’s expansion draft looming large, the Islanders will have a fair bit of work to do in order to maintain their core and supply the lineup with the proper compliment of depth and role players.

There’s also the free agency of several key Islanders approaching on the horizon, and that will mean some tough choices could be coming as far as who returns to the team and who doesn’t.

Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech, and Ilya Sorokin are all restricted free agents this year. Casey Cizikas is an unrestricted free agent, and a member of a fourth line that Lou Lamoriello seems intent on keeping together for the foreseeable future.

But with only about $5.800 million in cap space at the present moment, how the team manages to bring back all these returning members remains an interesting quandary.

Andrew Ladd, who played just one pro game all season with AHL Bridgeport, could provide $4.375 million worth of salary cap relief if the team is able to place him on long term injured reserve.

That would bring the Isles to about $10.175 million in cap space, leaving them with somewhere between $11.600 million and $15.675 million after the expansion draft, assuming Seattle opts to take a rostered Islander with term remaining and not just a 2021 free agent to satisfy the expansion draft demands of picking a player from every single NHL team.

Whatever happens this summer, there’s sure to be a lot involved in assembling a championship-caliber roster for the Islanders in 2021-22. With the obvious stated, we’ll just have to wait and see how things unfold.

Finally, I do want to say thank you to everyone who followed along with the three takeaways this season. I know I didn’t get one done after every game, like I would’ve liked to, but for those of you who kept coming back and adding to the conversation in the comments section and elsewhere. Just know you’re appreciated.

Thanks for following along this season, and let’s go Islanders in 2021-22.

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