New York Islanders forward Kieffer Bellows is one of the few contracts the Islanders will need to sign this summer regarding returnees. They'll also have Noah Dobson's next contract to take care of, and if they want, they could extend Mathew Barzal before his contract expires in the summer of 2023. If Bellows doesn't end up in one of those "hockey trades" we keep hearing about and returns to the Islanders for the 2022-23 season, what will the contract look like for the soon-to-be 24-year-old former first-round draft pick?
Bellows will be negotiating his third professional contract this summer after signing a one-year deal with Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello in October 2021. The Edina, Minnesota re-upped with the Islanders on a one-year, league-minimum deal. The one-way contract solidified his time in the AHL was over and although he didn't play a full NHL season, he also was never returned to the Bridgeport Islanders for assignment. Bellows showed flashes of NHL potential when he slotted into the lineup, but also showed signs of needing some more maturation.
Bellows dressed for a career-high 45 games with the Islanders this season and with that came a career-high 19 points (six goals, 13 assists). He skated on a number of lines whether it was centered by Barzal, Brock Nelson, or J.G. Pageau, and despite it only happening on one occasion or two, he did find himself alongside Casey Cizikas on the fourth line.
Most of Bellows' time came skating on Nelson's line skating with the Isles' leading goal scorer for 153:31. Together, the dup accrued an excellent 53.45 xGF% via NaturalStatTrick. That's the highest among any of his linemates on the Islanders for the 2021-22 season at 5on5. It appears Bellows does his best work when he's given an increased role somewhere in the middle six rather than sheltered time with bottom-six minutes.
Still, we don't exactly know what Bellows is, yet. He's the definition of a power forward and traditionally, they take more time to develop at the top professional level. It seems fair to assume that Bellows will receive another bridge deal if he's still on the Islanders roster in October.
Looking at some comparable contracts, Arizona Coyotes forwards Lawson Crouse and Christian Fischer come to mind. Crouse is in the midst of a three-year deal with a $1.533 million AAV and Fischer a two-year deal with an AAV worth $1 million. Bellows has far fewer games played in the NHL in comparison to each player, however, the Coyotes are in need of warm bodies to ice in their rebuild. Crouse had a breakout, 20-goal season and if he keeps it up, he'll outplay his $1.533 million AAV, whereas Fischer is probably fine where he is. A two-year, $1-$1.3 million deal seems fair for the Islanders to retain Bellows at a low cap hit while giving him the chance to prove he's more than just a 13th forward, especially with Lane Lambert now behind the bench who may be more willing to utilize his youth. Anything above the $1-$1.3 million range would be premature.
If the Islanders are going to make a few more significant shake-ups this offseason, Bellows could be part of one of those deals that bring a necessary change to the Islanders lineup. If not, he could slot in for a forward who could find themselves playing in a different sweat for the 2022-23 season.