When the New York Islanders traded Josh Bailey to the Chicago Blackhawks and was subsequently bought out, the one positive for the 34-year-old was that he would now be free to explore options available to him to continue his NHL career.
NHL free agency came and went without Bailey generating much interest until he was signed to a Professional Tryout (PTO) by the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 14. With former Islanders head coach Jack Capuano, an assistant to head coach DJ Smith, who also had a relationship with Bailey dating back to the juniors, it appeared as a potential landing spot if Bailey could impress enough during training camp and the pre-season.
Bailey played well throughout the pre-season, scoring a goal and adding five assists in six games. Despite that, and the fact that he was wearing an "A" for the final pre-season game, Bailey was released on Sunday from his PTO, putting his NHL future in question.
The 2008 1st round pick is third in Islanders history in games played with 1,057, but his $5M AAV salary for the 2023-24 season, his diminished production, and increased competition among forwards meant the organization had to move on after 15 seasons. GM Lou Lamoriello needed to attach a 2026 2nd round to Bailey in the trade with Chicago after the winger recorded just eight goals and 17 assists in 64 games last season. As the Islanders got healthier down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs, Bailey was a healthy scratch most nights, only dressing for the regular season finale, a 4-2 playoff-clinching win against the Montreal Canadiens at UBS Arena.
At the team's exit interviews on May 1st, Bailey indicated he had no plans of retiring and still felt that he could play and contribute at a high level. After being released from the PTO with the Senators, he'll have to reevaluate his situation and determine if there are other opportunities worth pursuing to keep his hockey career going.