When Josh Bailey penned his goodbye to New York Islanders fans in The Players Tribune on Wednesday, it served as closure for the 15-year veteran and also a sign that he was ready to move on. On Thursday, it was announced that the Ottawa Senators have signed the forward to a professional tryout (PTO) contract. Sens head coach DJ Smith was an assistant coach with Windsor when Bailey played in juniors, and former Islanders head coach Jack Capuano is an Ottawa assistant.
Bailey was traded by the Islanders before the second round of the 2023 NHL Draft to the Chicago Blackhawks for a 2026 second round back in June. GM Lou Lamoriello needed financial relief to sign his own unrestricted free agents on July 1, and there was no longer a defined role for Bailey on the roster after 1,057 games on Long Island.
For a few brief moments, it felt like he would be a good fit on the young, upstart team that would need a veteran forward presence. But that was not to be as Chicago promptly put Bailey on waivers, incurring a $2.67M cap hit this year and a $1.67M hit next year to do so.
This gave Bailey options, but not necessarily suitors. All summer went by without there being much interest from teams across the league. He reached the 1,000 games played milestone last season but had one of his least productive campaigns, scoring eight goals and 17 assists in 64 games while averaging just 15:08 TOI, the lowest in his career. He was a healthy scratch late in the season and for all six playoff games against the Carolina Hurricanes as the team added Bo Horvat, Pierre Engvall, and Hudson Fasching to their forward group.
For his career, the ninth overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft has scored 184 goals and 396 assists. He's raised his game in the playoffs, scoring 16 goals and 34 assists in 71 games, including two OT winners against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019 and 2021.
Despite diminished stats and playing time, he had publicly stated that he still felt that he could play at a high level and help teams win. While he's a 15-year veteran, he's only 33 years old, so it's understandable why he continued to search for another opportunity. He now has one with former teammate Travis Hamonic and the Sens. Good luck, Josh!