While most of the big names available in free agency are now signed to new contracts, the NY Islanders brought back three of their own in Scott Mayfield, Pierre Engvall, and Semyon Varlamov. Unless Lou Lamoriello can make a "hockey trade" before the start of the season, the 2023-24 Islanders roster, as it currently stands, looks quite similar to last year's.
Aside from Zach Parise, who is still mulling retirement, there are no players currently under contract for the Isles who weren't on last season's payroll. While the names may be the same, this roster will be constructed differently from how it looked for the majority of last season.
Bo Horvat was set to be the top free agent on the market on July 1 before Lamoriello acquired the 27-year-old, quickly locking him up to an eight-year extension. While he had to fork over a first-round pick, Anthony Beauvillier, and top prospect Aatu Räty, the Isles now had a high-end winger... in Mat Barzal.
It may not have been the traditional way of acquiring a winger, but Horvat and Barzal found immediate success playing together. In the six full games they played on the Isles' top line, Horvat managed four points (three goals, one assist), while Barzal racked up eight (two goals, six assists) before the latter went down to injury, missing the remainder of the regular season.
Despite their success together, the two now have all of training camp to become more familiar with each other's style of play. It may not appear so, but Horvat can be chalked up as a head-start free agent signing heading into next season.
Agreeing to a seven-year deal on the first day of free agency, Engvall appeared in just 18 games with the Isles, injecting an element of speed the team desperately needed. As he became familiar with the system, Engvall formed a potent alliance with Kyle Palmieri and Brock Nelson.
Engvall might not be the prototypical top-6 forward, but his speed, work on the forecheck, and defensive prowess complemented Nelson and Palmieri well. If the team were to move JG Pageau in a potential deal for a scoring winger, Engvall could slot into the vacant third-line center role, as he spent time playing down the middle with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
While Lamoriello hopes to acquire additional goal-scoring through the trade market, two mid-season additions to the top-6 will now have a full slate of games with their new teammates as they continue to build chemistry.