NY Islanders Josh Bailey is uncertain about future; doesn't want to sit in press box

Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders
Buffalo Sabres v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Josh Bailey's career with the New York Islanders after 15 seasons could be over.

That decision isn't entirely in his control, but he knows it's a distinct possibility after an end of the regular season that saw him routinely be a healthy scratch after the acquisitions of Bo Horvat, Pierre Engvall, and the emergence of Hudson Fasching and Simon Holmstrom crowded the forward group.

When the Islanders were a healthy team, there simply wasn't a place for Bailey in head coach Lane Lambert's lineup, and that was before Mathew Barzal returned from injury in the playoffs that landed Holmstrom as a scratch alongside Bailey. The 33-year-old, who has played in 1,057 Islanders games, the third most in franchise history, met with the media during "clean out day" and expressed a desire to keep playing, but he doesn't want to sit on the bench and watch from the press box.

"It's been fine," said Bailey about his relationship with Lambert as captured by Kevin Kurz of The Athletic. "I think [we] always had a mutual respect for one another. I think looking back on it now; it's rather telling getting scratched four or five games into the season before my 1,000th game to where we end up at the end of the season. It makes a lot more sense now, but it's all part of the past."

As things are currently constructed, it's hard to envision the Islanders in a situation where Bailey is a consistent top-nine forward after scoring eight goals, and 17 assists in 64 games this season and averaging just 15:08 TOI, the lowest in his career.

A buy-out of the final year of his contract, which carries a $5M AAV, seems likely at this point and would give the team $2.33M in extra cap space for next season while carrying 1.66M against that number in 2024-25. It's a move that would not be very punitive moving forward.

Bailey has always been a polarizing Islander, and many fans will be pleased to see him off this roster, but he has been the constant presence across multiple eras of Islanders hockey and has contributed to several great playoff and regular season moments during his tenure. If this is the end, it's unfortunate that it comes on this note, but its one most NHL players have to experience, regardless of how many games they've played for one organization.