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Islanders Kieffer Bellows and Sebastian Aho Must Be Protected

BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT - OCTOBER 02: Kieffer Bellows #20 of the New York Islanders (C) celebrates his first period goal on an assist from Mathew Barzal #13 (L) against the New Jersey Devils during a preseason game at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard on October 02, 2021 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT - OCTOBER 02: Kieffer Bellows #20 of the New York Islanders (C) celebrates his first period goal on an assist from Mathew Barzal #13 (L) against the New Jersey Devils during a preseason game at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard on October 02, 2021 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders will have to submit their opening night rosters this coming week. Kieffer Bellows and Sebastian Aho must be protected.

The New York Islanders’ depth regarding their main roster is at its high water-mark for the first time in a very long time. But with that comes some problems. In this case, if they try to move certain players down to Bridgeport they would have to clear waivers first. For some it’s doubtful they would get through.

The Islanders’ nightly lineup is set. The question for the blue and orange is who will land the extra roster spots when the Isles submit their list to the league this week.

New York Islanders must protect Bellows and Aho

Two of those players in competition for those extra roster spots are Bellows and Aho. If they don’t land one of those extra roster spots and the Isles try to send them down to the AHL then they both must clear waivers. It’s doubtful that would happen.

While Bellows is re-signed we don’t know his contract status but it’s surely less than $1 million if he is in the NHL this season. Let’s remember Bellows recently just turned 23 and has skill and size. Teams who are rebuilding this year such as Anaheim, Arizona, Buffalo, or Columbus would gobble him up off the waiver wire in a Long-Island minute.

Aho is 25 and signed this year to a $725,000 NHL deal. He is a restricted free agent after this season. This off-season everyone saw how all NHL clubs are looking for blueline help. We saw that in trades and free agency and the price of these acquisitions. All teams are on the lookout for a defenseman and it’s hard to believe that Aho would clear waivers.

The Veterans

In terms of the veterans vying for these extra spots, odds are all would clear waivers if they were sent down to Bridgeport. This group includes Leo Komarov, Thomas Hickey, Richard Panik, and Ross Johnston.

Komarov, Hickey, and Johnston all become unrestricted free agents at the end of the year. Komarov’s cap hit is $3 million, Hickey $2.5 million, and Johnston $1 million. A team trying to make the playoffs this year that has cap space and needs help on their fourth line could claim Johnston. Isles have depth here so if they lose Johnston they will be fine.

Panik is signed for this season and next and the Isles are picking up a $1.375 million cap hit on him (Detroit is also picking up 50% of his cap hit). If someone claims Panik they would be doing the Isles a favor as they have plenty of depth at forward and they would free up cap space for them in terms of next year.

Not for Nothing

The bottom line is if your the Islanders you don’t want to lose Bellows and or Aho for nothing. One might say let’s trade them to restock some draft capital we have traded away the last couple of years. The problem with that is on their own Bellows and Aho wouldn’t bring back that much of a return at this time. For Bellows maybe you could get a late third-rounder, Aho a fourth-round pick, at best.

Bellows could slide into one of the top three lines if there is an injury. Of course, he would have to play well away from the puck to satisfy Barry Trotz. The Isles have two older defensemen in Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara so having Aho around could be very valuable. Plus having Aho around would mean not rushing Robin Salo or Samuel Bolduc.

Next. Isles Magic Number to Start the Season is 16

Granted having these youngsters as extra players and around in case of injury is not ideal. But at this point and time the Isles do not want to lose them to waivers. They have potential and injuries happen all the time.

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