The Isles need to make moves, but trading Josh Bailey would bring mixed emotions

New York Islanders v New York Rangers
New York Islanders v New York Rangers / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Did it get more or less likely the Islanders will trade Josh Bailey after falling short in the Johnny Gaudreau sweepstakes? I don't know. What I do know is that there is (and perhaps never has been) no Islander more polarizing than No. 12.

Who else can simultaneously have fans serenading him while others sit on their hands and wish he was scratched? Who else can rank among Hall of Famers and franchise legends in multiple statistical categories and yet be viewed as an underachiever?

Not surprisingly, the debate as to whether he should be traded, what he’s worth, and whether he will be missed carries on as we wait and see whether Lou Lamoriello will or even wants to move the veteran winger.

That has got me conflicted inside.  

Let me start here …

I acknowledge the Islanders need to create cap space to address their offensive needs both in the Top 9 and on defense. I acknowledge that he is an inconsistent player, turns the puck over too much, doesn’t shoot enough, and has defensive lapses. I acknowledge he is making $2-$3M above-market given his production. I acknowledge he is not ‘elite” although I enjoy the reaction that label brings with each secondary assist.  

Having said all that, it would be a bit disheartening to see Bailey traded after playing 993 games with the Islanders after being drafted 9th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. Thinking about him getting an on-ice ceremony for 1,000 games played at an ice rink at Arizona State University just feels wrong and I would hope that even the most fervent Bailey haters would agree with that.

He’s been through A LOT with the franchise or as  LHH’s Dan Saraceni would call “The Full Islanders Experience.” He's been an Islander when they were dreadful, played a role when they returned to relevance, and was at times indispensable when they became a Stanley Cup contender. He’s scored highlight-reel goals and has put one in his own net.

Trent Hunter, John Tavares, Josh Bailey
Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

He pre-dates the drafting of John Tavares, wore those Reebok Edge jerseys with numbers on the front, and dropped the gloves against the Pens in 2011. He closed the Coliseum and moved to Brooklyn. He made the All-Star team in 2018, came back to the Coliseum, and (eventually due to COVID) was part of the team that opened UBS Arena.

He’s also been his best in recent post-seasons. Think back to the Islanders' runs in 2019, 2020, and 2021. There’s no “Game 1 to the Island!” without Bailey’s OT goal vs. the Penguins. Playing with Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson, he had 20 points (2G, 18A) in 22 games played in the 2020 bubble and then won Game 5 a year later in Pittsburgh with a goal in 2OT.

Josh Bailey
Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders - Game One / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

And despite the narrative that he underachieved relative to lofty expectations; he’s had one of the more successful careers in his draft class.  His 993 games played are second only to Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty and when it comes to production, he ranks sixth 555 points (176 G, 379 A).

He accomplished this despite the Isles' best efforts, rushing him to the NHL in 2019, not giving him a defined role, and putting him on one of the worst teams in franchise history. That could’ve ruined a player’s development for good, but for Bailey it just delayed it. He came out on the other side and deserved the extension (albeit a bit long) he was signed to by Garth Snow before the end of the 2018 season.

He came to Long Island as a teenager and would leave as a man, husband, and father. There’s still a chance he leaves as the franchise’s all-time leader in games played. But if he’s moved, I will miss him, the debate he created, and bit of disappointment that the entirety of his NHL experience isn’t spent on Long Island.

Plus, without Bailey around, what are we going to complain about? Eh, I'm sure we'll find something.