Roster management goes beyond just the guys that are currently on the squad. That means the New York Islanders have to keep tabs on guys outside of the NHL squad. Losing players for nothing that could eventually become NHLers could be a problem.
That's why it's important to look at RFA players that can suddenly become unrestricted free agents. And by that, I mean group six UFAs.
New York Islanders: Three pending RFA's could actually become UFAs
Group 6 UFAs are 25-year-old players (at least) that didn't play enough NHL games by the end of their contract. Here are the criteria for reaching group 6 status per the CBA:
-25 years or more by June 30
-Three professional seasons
-Played 75 (prorated based on a shortened 2019-20) NHL games
Remember that's how Josh Ho-Sang left the organization last year. Ho-Sang didn't amass enough NHL experience for the Islanders to hold on to him before hitting unrestricted free agency at a more traditional time.
There are three players in the Islanders system that can hit this group six status by the end of the year:
-Mitchell Vande Sompel
Sebastian Aho is the best of the three. He has to play another 27 games for the Islanders to retain him as an RFA. With 53 games played during the year, there are only 29 games left to be played. Meaning Aho has to essentially play out the rest of the year in order for the Islanders to keep him as an RFA.
Salo certainly has the higher ceiling than Sebastian Aho but losing Aho for nothing wouldn't be ideal.
Grant Hutton will become a group 6 UFA. I think that Hutton can make the jump to the NHL to be a bottom pair guy. Becoming a UFA won't necessarily change the Islanders ability to keep him if they so choose. I doubt Hutton has a ton of suitors out there and he knows the Isles system well.
Mitchell Vande Sompel is the final player here, and just like Hutton, he will become a UFA. I don't think the Islanders will try to retain him. The left-shot defenseman has been steadily falling down the depth chart for the Bridgeport Islanders.
Vande Sompel has been in the Islanders system for a number of years now. Drafted by the Isles all the way back in the third round of the 2015 draft. The undersized defenseman hasn't taken that step forward in his career yet so it's likely that the Isles let him walk.