It's hard to believe that the New York Islanders were able to acquire D Mike Reilly for "free." In a stroke of luck and impeccable timing, Reilly was placed on waivers and available for GM Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders to claim on Nov. 25, the same day the team placed D Adam Pelech on Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR).
The 30-year-old veteran filled a depth need, but more than that brought with him an offensive instinct that was lacking on the blue line. In his 18 games with the Islanders, he has already scored three goals and five assists, showcasing his puck-moving ability and willingness to jump up into a play.
The three goals are one shy of his career-best four set in 70 games with the Boston Bruins during the 2021-22 season. Reilly's last goal came in the first period of Thursday night's 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. In the game, Reilly tied a career-high with six shots on goal.
Among defensemen who have played at least 300 minutes this season, Reilly leads all with 9.61 shots on goal per 60 minutes, according to MoneyPuck.com. Reilly sits atop a list that includes some of the most decorated offensive defensemen in the league, including Dougie Hamilton, Roman Josi, Evan Bouchard, Rasmus Dahlin, Cale Makar and Brent Burns.
You can go back and draw a direct line from when Reilly joined the lineup to see when the Islanders' offensive numbers went from pedestrian to somewhat prolific. Per Stefen Rosner in The Hockey News, the Islanders are averaging 3.72 goals per game during the 18 games Reilly has played with the team, which is third-best in the league. Prior to that, they scored a very average 2.55 goals-per-game in their first 20 games.
Reilly signed with the Florida Panthers this off-season expecting to have an opportunity, but after dressing for only two games, a bigger opportunity came with the Islanders, and he has made the most of it and then some. He's quickly gone from a stop-gap option that would fill a temporary hole to one that has earned a regular spot when both Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock return to the lineup.
With Sebastian Aho an unrestricted free agent after this season and Samuel Bolduc improving, but searching for consistency, Reilly may be earning himself another contract to stay on Long Island at season's end with the way his play has impacted the team's performance this season.