What is the NY Islanders' Third Line if Parise Retires?

New York Islanders Training Camp
New York Islanders Training Camp / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The NY Islanders' top priority for the remainder of the off-season is to re-sign veteran Zach Parise. The 38-year-old has played over 1,200 games in his 18 NHL seasons and is now mulling hanging up the skates following a fantastic career.

Parise was one of the unsung heroes for the Islanders last season, contributing 21 goals while eating up just $750K in cap space. His place on the Islanders' third line will be difficult to replace if he were to retire, with the team likely having to replace him from within.

It's safe to assume JG Pageau is penciled in as the third-line center, barring any trade made before the season begins. Hudson Fasching seems like the likely choice on one of Pageau's wings after signing a two-year deal worth $775K annually. He may be better suited in a fourth-line role, but with the "identity line" still intact, he'll move up in the lineup.

That leaves one spot available potentially between five players. Assuming Lane Lambert tries to recreate the chemistry between Brock Nelson, Kyle Palmieri, and Pierre Engvall, that leaves Anders Lee, Oliver Wahlstrom, Simon Holmström, Julian Gauthier, and Ross Johnston to fight it out. Lee will, of course, be a regular in the lineup, and Wahlstrom, assuming he's signed by training camp, would be the twelfth forward.

There's a good chance that with a strong training camp, Wahlstom gets an opportunity to start the season on the top line alongside Bo Horvat and Mat Barzal. While Barzal creates from the outside, Horvat prefers to do his damage in close, similar to Lee, while Wahlstrom can look to tee off from just further out. This puts Lee down with the Pageau and Fasching on the third line.

Adding Julian Gauthier, who signed a two-year, one-way deal, will give the Isles an option with more speed which the team severely lacked last season. Lambert could rest Cal Clutterbuck every few games throughout the year, as he's been injury prone later in his career, allowing Fasching to drop to the fourth line and insert Gauthier into the lineup.

A decision has to be made regarding Johnston and Holmström, as the Isles will be over the cap and above the roster limit once Wahlstrom re-signs. Moving Johnston through a trade or waivers would clear up an additional $1.1M in cap space, leaving Holmström as the 14th forward. Holmstrom is still on his two-way ELC, allowing him to be sent to Bridgeport without clearing waivers. Only 22 years old, it would be wise to allow Holmström to develop his game in Bridgeport rather than sit in the press box.

Without Parise, the third line will take a massive hit as the Islanders will struggle to replace a quality player who was also a significant piece of the penalty kill and power play.