The heart of the off-season approaches as we are just over a week away from the NHL Draft. All teams are preparing for the draft and the free agent frenzy, following on July 13th.
Like every NHL team, the New York Islanders will be looking to improve the roster and add the missing pieces to a Stanley Cup-winning roster. Most teams will have concerns with the salary cap, as will the Islanders.
The current roster has various restricted and unrestricted free agents that will need new contracts for the upcoming seasons and will lower the available salary-cap space.
New York Islanders Roster Situation
The New York Islanders have the 13th overall pick in the draft, followed by the second-round pick from the Devon Toews trade. The Islanders then hold their own 3rd, 5th, and 6th round picks respectively.
The projected cap space available to Lou Lamoriello and company is $12,010,037. The unrestricted free agents from last year’s roster are Zdeno Chara, Andy Greene, Paul LaDue, Thomas Hickey, Corey Schneider, Austin Czarnik, and Andy Andreoff. Sebastian Aho and Grant Hutton are unrestricted G6 players.
The restricted free agents are Noah Dobson, Kieffer Bellows, Robin Salo, and Otto Koivula.
Luckily for Lou, the unrestricted free agents will not cost much to retain if desired. The price gets steeper when it comes to the restricted free agents.
Dobson is coming off a breakout season with 51 points in 80 games. 13 of the 51 points were goals and 22 of the points were from the power play. The contract will be significantly larger than the prior years.
Bellows had a career year, but not a breakout season like Dobson. Bellows had a career-high in all categories as it was the first prolonged chance to play. He had 19 points and showed signs of becoming a consistent forward. Nonetheless, his salary will not increase drastically.
Two Potential Moves to Open Up Things
The team has thrived on cycling four lines, but the times are changing for many of these players. The fourth line will need less ice time to not only stay healthy but produce on special teams.
The production from Brock Nelson has been phenomenal despite the inconsistencies from the wingers he has played with over the season. Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier are the most consistent wingers to play with Nelson.
Not only do the Islanders need to find someone to play with Matthew Barzal, but they certainly need someone to play with Nelson.
This team needs to have two scoring threat lines and two checking lines. When the Nelson line is at its best is when they have consistently produced and won in the playoffs. The regular-season success has not been sustainable for Bailey and Beauvillier.
The lack of production at times is frustrating with Beauvillier and Bailey but the contracts are even worse in the big picture. Bailey holds a $5 million cap hit for the next two seasons and Beauvillier is $4.15 for the next two seasons as well.
This is a lot of money for two top-six forwards to be producing poorly on a scoring-challenged team with other needs. Include the first half that Kyle Palmieri had, the Islanders did not have a chance to outscore many opponents.
Palmieri would work nicely on the third line with the likes of Zach Parise and J.G. Pageau. That would allow the scoring depth needed from the third line while providing grit and energy.
Beauvillier is the more attractive trade chip as he still has potential and youth. His game provides speed and ability that would fit in with any team. The trade market for Beauvillier would be large and the possibility to pick up help on defense in return. The main objective is to get a chance of scenery and open the salary cap space more.
Bailey will be a difficult player to move as he is on the decline and carrying a larger cap hit. Despite being the brunt of the Islanders fan's anger, Bailey still has some offensive skill. The deterioration in his game can be made up with leadership for some suitors.
No team is taking Bailey’s contract without assistance or additional assets. That is where the 13th overall pick can enter the picture.
Some teams with cap space will be willing to take on larger contracts to gain draft assets. The fact that Bailey can still contribute to the current team is also a plus for suitors.
The cap space and roster space available would allow the Islanders shop freely for a player like Filip Forsberg and more. It also opens a spot for players like Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom to slide into the top six.