Honestly, it’s still a surprise that New York Islanders General Manager, Lou Lamoriello is leaving both Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey unprotected. Sure, Lou may have a side deal in place, we won’t know until Wednesday, but it’s still a risk.
Both players are top-six forwards, on a cap hit of $5 million for Bailey and $5.5 million for Eberle over the next three seasons. Ideally, the Isles don’t have to lose either for nothing but under the assumption that it’ll be one of the two, I’d prefer Jordan Eberle to be the one lost in expansion. Allow me to explain.
Josh Bailey is the longest-tenured Islander, and yes that stuff matters. He was drafted by the Isles in 2008, played right away, and unfortunately struggled. But it’s not 2014 anymore. The narrative that Bailey is “useless” is as outdated as the mannequin challenge.
Over the last five seasons, Bailey has played at a .69 points per game pace. He’s not going to be someone who puts in 20+ goals in a season, but he’s a playmaker and a pretty darn clutch playoff performer.
Bails is 12th all-time in playoff points with 50 in just 71 games played. Every single Islander on the list above him has at least one Stanley Cup ring on their finger. Over the past two playoff runs, he’s had 33 points in 41 games. He’s been dynamite for this team.
Plus, he’s more versatile than Eberle. He can play on either the left or the right and take faceoffs if need be. You can also slot him in anywhere on lines one through three and he can handle the role. Eberle is not as versatile.
He plays on strictly the right, he doesn’t kill penalties, and he’s really a more offense-heavy forward. Yes, you can make the case for Eberle being a better goal scorer, but is he a better fit for this specific Islander team?
With his skillset and Oliver Wahlstrom looking for a consistent top-six role, I’d argue no. The Isles would have an *easier* time finding an Eberle replacement than they would for Josh Bailey, who has become a swiss army knife for this team.
Plus how often do we see Eberle, whose strength is scoring goals, go through downright awful scoring droughts, especially in the playoffs. In 2020 he went 11 games in a row without a goal, and then this year there was a six-game streak.
I don’t necessarily want this to turn into an anti-Jordan Eberle thing, I happen to like him as a top-six wing, I just prefer Bailey’s game especially in this system, and think they’d be better off exploring replacement options for Eberle via trade or free agency.
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Who knows, maybe Kieffer Bellows is the pick or there’s a trade in place and we don’t have to sweat anything. But if it’s between these two, I hope Eberle is the pick. Isles fans tend to agree with me on this.