NHL free agency is officially open, and the New York Islanders didn’t sign a single contract on the first day. It was a disappointing day for fans who had hoped for Gabriel Landeskog, Mike Reilly, Alec Martinez, and other free agents who signed recently.
But it’s not the end of the world. While the Isles didn’t officially sign anyone, it’s been reported that Kyle Palmieri will be returning to the Island, and Zach Parise will be joining the team.
With no official contracts being signed yet, it’s hard to project exactly how much money they’ll be making, but we can guess – most estimates have Palmieri making around $4 million for 3-4 years, and Parise getting $1-1.5 million for one year.
Islanders did nothing on day 1 of free agency – is that a good thing?
Signing all RFAs to the deals I’ve been expecting – Beauvillier to $5 million, Pelech $4 million, and Sorokin $3 million – and signing Casey Cizikas to a $3 million deal would leave the Isles with a decent roster:
Healthy scratches: Komarov, Panik, Aho
I’d argue that roster is basically as good as last year’s playoff team. Palmieri on the first line is as good or better than Eberle, Lee replacing Komarov is huge, and having Pageau at full strength makes the third line formidable.
The only spot that’s really worse is the third defensive pair, specifically Samuel Bolduc being in over Nick Leddy (who played the 2nd pair, leaving Greene on the 3rd). But we haven’t seen Bolduc in the NHL yet – he could, like Dobson last year, be surprisingly good already.
Robin Salo is another option at LD – a young, well-regarded prospect who could be ready to make a jump. And there’s always Sebastian Aho, whose defense leaves something to be desired but whose offense is pretty good.
Granted, I’d rather have Mike Reilly or Alec Martinez in that spot than Bolduc, Salo, or Aho. But they decided to sign with their teams before hitting free agency, and there’s nothing Lou Lamoriello can do about that.
The point is, the Islanders haven’t gotten worse since their semifinal run last year – and most of the teams they’re competing with didn’t get better. Tampa Bay actually got worse, losing Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, and Barclay Goodrow due to salary cap constraints.
Bringing back a similar (possibly slightly better) team than the one that came within one goal of the Stanley Cup Finals can’t be a bad idea, especially when the team they lost to isn’t as good anymore.
But the best part about the above roster is that it has $3.3 million in cap space. That’s enough to pay Beauvillier or Pelech in case their contract demands are higher than we expect or to trade for a defenseman in case Bolduc and Salo aren’t ready yet.
Keep in mind the Islanders aren’t necessarily done. We all know how Lou operates – you won’t hear anything about a potential trade until Lou wants you to. And the only team, aside from the Islanders, that didn’t make a single signing today was… the St. Louis Blues.
Could a Tarasenko trade be on the table? It’d probably involve not signing Cizikas and possibly trading Komarov or Thomas Hickey, but it is possible.
There’s also a chance Lou goes for somebody totally off the radar. Nobody had any idea Andrew Ladd would be traded until he was, so maybe the Isles trade for someone unexpected.
But overall, doing nothing isn’t a bad idea. Especially considering that most of the defensemen signed today got multiple years at a higher AAV than expected, I can’t blame Lou for not doing anything rash.
Moving on to some questions: in my last article, I wrote about the Islanders’ next steps for the offseason. “Hattr” asked: “We are still throwing around Dal Colle and Komarov on potential lines? When are we gonna move on from those bums and play Wahlstrom and Bellows in those spots?”
This comment was representative of many others, who were all opposed to the idea of putting Michael dal Colle in a lineup. Just to be clear, that lineup was what would happen if the Islanders signed their RFAs and did nothing else – which isn’t likely, particularly as Palmieri and Parise’s signing seems all but guaranteed.
(Obviously, dal Colle won’t be in the lineup next year – since I wrote that article, the Islanders declined to send him a qualifying offer and he became an unrestricted free agent.)
Don’t be surprised to see some of Uncle Leo again next year, though. If Cizikas isn’t signed, Komarov would be expected to fill that fourth-line center role. Even if Cizikas does come back, you’d expect to see him occasionally fill in for Parise or in case of injury.
“Bobbynye23” says “If Cizikas wants 4-5 million it’s, unfortunately, time to cut ties” and I have to agree. We’re not giving Cizikas $4 million, and if another team offers that, I can’t blame him for taking it. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns for about $3 million.
With cap space at a premium, giving $4 million to Cizikas just doesn’t make sense. Komarov can play center well enough to fill 4th line minutes, and whatever else you think of him, he is a good enough defensive player to play that 4th line role.
That would also allow the Islanders to more easily make a Tarasenko trade work, or perhaps trade for a Leddy replacement at left defense. Honestly, you could argue that bringing back Cizikas would be a mistake regardless of cap hit (unless he takes a huge discount for $2 million or something similar).
Ryan P asks via Twitter “I’ve been wondering if it makes sense to trade Mayfield for a definitive top 4 lefty, and sign a 3RHD like Hamonic.” The Islanders won’t be signing Hamonic, as he just signed with the Canucks, but this question was from a few days ago.
Would it make sense to trade Mayfield for a LD and find some other replacement RD? I would argue almost certainly not. With a cap hit of just $1.45 million, Mayfield is one of the best value contracts on the team.
Unless the LD in question is someone truly transformative, it just doesn’t make sense to move Mayfield, who is a very good defensive defenseman and fits in well on Trotz’s team. Cap flexibility is too valuable in this flat cap era.
If you have a question you’d like me to answer, tag me on Twitter @BrianWeinberge7 or ask in the comments of this article!