The NHL expansion draft is today, and the New York Islanders will be losing a player to the Seattle Kraken. Whose name should Islanders fans hope to hear during the draft?
Some might think there’s no reason to change anything about a team that’s made the semifinals twice in a row, and that the best option is losing a player who didn’t play much last season, such as Kieffer Bellows or Otto Koivula.
This, combined with the loss of Andrew Ladd and Nick Leddy’s contracts, would allow the Islanders to sign Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech, Ilya Sorokin, and Casey Cizikas, and have essentially the same roster as last season before Anders Lee’s injury.
Who should Islanders hope gets selected by Seattle?
Considering how bad the Isles’ cap situation was, and that Seattle will be taking a player for free, being able to keep their entire team (minus Leddy) the exact same sounds like a pretty good outcome.
It’s not impossible, either. Seattle might want to select cheaper players (such as Bellows or Koivula) from most teams, enabling them to take Carey Price (whose cap hit is $10.5 million) and chase a superstar free agent like Dougie Hamilton or Gabriel Landeskog.
But I don’t think that’s the best option for the Islanders. Of course, they don’t really have a choice, unless they send picks to Seattle – but I’m personally hoping to hear someone else’s name during the draft.
There’s no reason to stay exactly the same as last year when it’s possible to get better. As I wrote in this article, losing Jordan Eberle or Josh Bailey could potentially allow the Islanders to sign Gabriel Landeskog.
Eberle’s advanced stats are much better – per HockeyReference, Eberle‘s Corsi For % has been steadily above 50% for several years (meaning that his team possesses the puck significantly more often than not when he’s on the ice) while Bailey‘s was barely above 50% last year and actually below 50% in 2019-20.
But since Eberle joined the Islanders in 2017, he has never scored more points than Bailey in a season. Also, for purely sentimental reasons, it’s difficult to want to lose Bailey, who will probably finish his career with the most games played as an Islander (breaking Bryan Trottier’s record) if he stays with the team.
I think I’d rather lose Eberle than Bailey. But either way, losing one of our $5 million wingers is, in my opinion, the best-case scenario for the Islanders.
Adding Gabriel Landeskog would be huge for the Islanders. Landeskog is only 28 years old, and has scored at a 30-goal pace for three seasons in a row. Last year, he had 52 points in 54 games and a +/- rating of +14.
His advanced stats are also strong. Landeskog’s Corsi For % has been above 58% for the past three seasons, and last year was an incredible 69.0%. That, combined with his excellent point totals, paints a picture of a skilled offensive forward who’s also good at defense – just what the Trotz-led Islanders would love.
Replacing Eberle or Bailey with Landeskog is just what the Islanders need. I don’t want to use a cliche like “go from a good team to a great team”, because they’re already a great team – two straight semifinals appearances prove that – but Landeskog makes them a potential Cup favorite.
Of course, it’s not guaranteed that Landeskog would sign with the Islanders. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent, and can theoretically sign with any team he likes. But it’s been reported there are only has a few teams he’s interested in:
It’s at least a reasonable possibility that the Islanders can land Landeskog (pun intended) if they lose Eberle or Bailey, and that possibility alone makes it worth the loss. And if they don’t, they can use the cap on a cheaper forward and defenseman, maybe Kyle Palmieri (to replace Eberle/Bailey) and Ryan Suter (to replace Leddy).
I wrote that article before the expansion lists were released, but Lou Lamoriello leaving Eberle and Bailey unprotected shows that he might just be thinking along similar lines. If Seattle takes Eberle or Bailey, Islanders fans should be excited about the future.