Evaluating the Islanders September 1st signings one year later

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders
Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Exactly one year ago, after a short summer without hockey, GM Lou Lamoriello unlocked and opened his magical drawer and announced the New York Islanders had signed Anthony Beauvillier, Casey Cizikas, Kyle Palmieri, and Ilya Sorokin to multi-year contracts.

The silence of the last off-season was different than the quiet of this summer. This year things didn't happen because other things didn't happen. The Islanders were unable or unwilling to make the necessary trades that would free salary to sign a top Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA).

A year ago, the pieces on the chess board had moved, and we were just waiting for announcements. The Seattle Kraken had selected Jordan Eberle in the Expansion Draft, Andrew Ladd along with a couple of draft picks were unloaded to Arizona, and Nick Leddy was traded to the Detroit Red Wings for Richard Panik and a second-round pick.

The Islanders had created the necessary cap space to bring back their own unrestricted and restricted free agents. There were little to no rumors surrounding their two UFAs, and there was no thought of their restricted free agents being moved. The only drama was term and AAV.

On the one-year anniversary of the day the drawer opened, let's take back at those contracts and provide a fresh perspective on them heading into the 2022-23 season.

Casey Cizikas - 6 years, $2.5 million AAV

This was the day Cizikas told us he was going to "die an Islander' and that "Long Island is my home and will always be my home." He exemplified everything about what it meant to play like an Islander BEFORE he said those things.

The term was long, the AAV more than reasonable, and that was always going to be the trade-off. The thinking that at age 30, 'Zeeker' would remain a serviceable fourth-line center for much of the contract, and with the likelihood of the salary cap eventually going up, the number will not be one that adversely impacts the team's flexibility to make roster moves.

2021-22 Season: 10 G, 6 A in 74 GP

Cizikas, like most of the roster, falls into the "needs to be better" category in 2022-23. Among the stats that jump out is one that is often overlooked - penalty minutes. His 58 PIM was sixth highest on the Islanders (24 penalties ranked third), not ideal for one of the team's top penalty killers.

As Stefan Rosner wrote in NYIHockeyNow back in June, this was a reversal of course and a step back for Cizikas, who "during the 56-game season of 2020-21, Cizikas was ultra disciplined, with just 27 PIM. It was an impressive turnaround, given his 41 PIM in 48 games during the 2019-20 season."

Last season, Cizikas went a 25 game stretch without a goal, registering only a single assist during that time. The reasonable deal with bargain potential still has a chance to be that, but with his 'Identity-Line' line-mates a year older, this long deal will start to feel even longer if Cizikas can't be more of a consistent presence offensively.

Kyle Palmieri – 4 years, $5 million AAV

It was a tale of two seasons for Long Island native Kyle Palmieri after signing a four-year extension with the Islanders. The prior year he failed to live up to expectations after being traded for a 1st round pick and Travis Zajac at the deadline until the playoffs when his game and beard came back. Last season, he failed to live up to expectations until after the All-Star break, when the Islanders were already too far back to mount a realistic push for the playoffs.

The Islanders started the season with 13 games on the road and Palmieri didn't score a goal in the first 12 of them. While his shooting % would indicate there was some bad puck luck involved, that type of drought for a player counted on to score around 30 goals can't happen.

2021-22 Season: 15 G, 18 A in 69 GP

It was his second-straight season of an 'uncharacteristically' low shooting %. In 2021, his shooting % was 8.7% after six consecutive seasons above 12%. He finished with a shooting % of 9.6% after a very productive second-half.

The turnaround in his game coincided with him becoming his father. Aided by his new "Dad Power" as Noah Dobson said, Palmieri scored 14 goals over his last 40 games, which included a handful of disallowed goals, two happening in the same game.

That scoring pace over a full 82-game season is the type of production the Islanders need to get from Palmieri; otherwise, the $5M AAV with start to look like an anchor on the team's salary cap by the time other expensive contracts start to roll off.

Ilya Sorokin – 3 years, $4 million AAV

The $4M AAV for Sorokin after one NHL season was a tad higher than some expected but is looking cheap for the next two seasons after the 27-year-old Russian finished second in the NHL in SV% (0.925), fourth in GAA (2.40), and second in shutouts (7).

The Islanders as a team were better defensively in 2021, and that was reflected in his 13-6-3 record with a 2.17 GAA and .918 save percentage. After Semyon Varlamov faltered in the opening playoff round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was Sorokin in net for all four wins as the Islanders won the series in six games.

2021-22 Season: 26-18-8, 2.40 GAA, 0.925 SV%

Despite proving his big-game prowess, he was penciled in to remain the backup to Valarmov last season, albeit with an increased workload. That all changed when Varly missed training camp and the beginning of the year with an injury leading to Sorokin starting the first nine games of the season.

As Varlamov slowly returned to form, Sorokin dazzled in net, making highlight reel saves on a nightly basis for an Islanders team that was short healthy bodies and talent on the blue line last season. He finished sixth in the Vezina Trophy voting and is among the betting favorites to win the award this season.

Much has been made of the Varlamov being an expensive backup this season at $5M AAV, but the total $9M the Islanders are spending on goaltending could be lower than what they paying in a few years when Sorokin is due an extension.

Anthony Beauvillier – 3 years, $4.15 million AAV

The curious case of Beauvillier continued last season. After another productive post-season, we spent another off-season expecting a breakout year for the speedy 2015 first-round pick. Instead, Beauvillier registered his lowest goal total since his rookie season, scoring just 12 goals in 77 games after tallying 15 in just 47 games in 2021-22.

"Definitely disappointing, I feel like I kind of let my teammates down a little bit, Beauvillier said after the season. "I’m capable of doing much better things on the ice. I know that, and I think everyone knows that."

2021-22 Season: 12 G, 22 A in 75 GP

The Islanders have seen the type of player Beauvillier can be on multiple occasions for prolonged stretches. He scored five goals and added 8 assists for 13 points in 19 playoff games in 2021. The prior summer in the bubble, Beauvillier tallied nine goals and 14 points in 22 games.

The 3-year extension and $4.15 AAV was the organization paying for a player they expect to play as a Top-6 forward throughout a full regular season. The skillset is there and the reason why he was viewed as one of the few Islanders with attractive trade value to opposing teams. Under new head coach Lane Lambert , Beauvillier is getting a mini fresh-start with breaking the 40-point control a must for the organization and fans to believe he is deserving consistent time on the top two lines.