Evaluating the NY Islanders' internal options to pair with Scott Mayfield next season

The Isles will have a hole to fill on the blue line this upcoming offseason.

Mar 14, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA;  New York Islanders defenseman Sebastian Aho (25) takes a shot
Mar 14, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Sebastian Aho (25) takes a shot / Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
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Sebastian Aho is a wild card.

As mentioned previously, Aho was the number one choice to earn regular playing time alongside Mayfield coming into this season. After an injury-plagued beginning to his young career, Aho finally played his first full season in the NHL in 2022-23. In 71 games, the 27-year-old defenseman scored an impressive 5 goals and 18 assists with 69 blocked shots and 38 hits. He became a regular on the Isles blue line, averaging 16:46 in ice time. Known as an offensive-minded defenseman, Aho recorded a plus-9 rating including appearing in all 6 Islanders playoff games.

However, Aho has not replicated the same production in 2023-24. After missing time with an upper-body injury, Aho has been rotated in and out of the lineup with Bortuzzo and Reilly. In 53 games played, the 27-year-old has just 2 goals and 7 assists. His defense playing on his offside has declined, rating a -9 when on the ice. 

On the other hand, Aho is a candidate to bounce back well in 2024-25 given he is still young and will not garner an expensive contract. While we can joke and say 'Lamoriello will offer him a 7-year contract' in reference to Pierre Engvall and Mayfield, Aho will realistically earn a one-year 'prove it's deal. His $825K cap hit for this season is a solid benchmark and figures to earn about the same next season. Given his contract expectation and experience with Mayfield, Aho is a wild-card candidate to return in 2024-25.