It's been a frustrating final stretch of the season for veteran NY Islanders winger Josh Bailey.
After seeing his ice-time diminish to the second-lowest mark of his career and reoccurring demotions to the the fourth line while Cal Clutterbuck was out of the lineup, the longest-tenured Islander has been a healthy scratch eight of the last 10 regular season games.
Bailey has played in 63 games this year, moving him into third place on the team's all-time games played list with 1,056. However, with only three regular-season games left to play, Bailey won't be able to surpass Denis Potvin (1,060) for the second-most games played in franchise history. Bryan Trottier is the organization's all-time leader, having played 1,123 across 15 seasons.
The open question is if Bailey will be afforded to pass Potvin next season, as there doesn't appear to be a role on the team's top nine with the emergence of Hudson Fasching, the steady play of Simon Holmstrom, and the acquisitions of Bo Horvat and Pierre Engvall.
If Bailey doesn't have a spot with Mathew Barzal out for nearly two months and Oliver Wahlstrom out for the season, how could he have one when they are back healthy next season? Horvat is extended for the next eight seasons, Fasching is a player they'd like to bring back, and Engvall is making a case for a multi-year deal since coming over from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
A theme of each of the last few off-seasons has been that the Islanders should try to move Bailey and his $5M AAV. To what degree they shopped him has been up for debate, but the price tag for a team to take on his salary has been assumed to be too high for GM Lou Lamoriello to consider.
However, heading into next season with one year left on his contract at $5M AAV, little to no trade value without a significant sweetener to attach to his contract, a buyout becomes a realistic option for the first time. A Bailey buyout spans 2 years and has a cost of $2,333,333, leading to a cap savings of $2,333,333 for the 2023-24 season. It would cost the Islanders $1,166,667 against the 2024-25 cap, in a year where that salary cap is expected to jump up.
Things can change, but based on the likely makeup of the forward group next season, it's hard to see how a buyout is not a better option than to carry a $5M AAV salary as a healthy scratch for more than half the games next season.
If this is the end for Bailey, the circumstances of the season are leading to a very unceremonious end to one of the longest and most polarizing Islander tenures in franchise history.