It was no secret that in order to get better after last season’s disappointment, the New York Islanders needed to find a way to add scoring and get younger on the blueline. They managed to do one of those things, acquiring 22-year-old defenseman Alexander Romanov from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for their 2022 first-round pick. However, the team was unable to, at least so far, address its lackluster offense. The Islanders had been connected to star free agents Johnny Gaudreau, who ultimately signed with the division-rival Columbus Blue Jackets, and Nazem Kadri who recently signed with the Calgary Flames.
Today on NHL Network, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman discussed the Islanders with Bill Pidto, saying that while he believes they were interested in Kadri, they were never able to create the cap space to make it work. Interestingly, the Islanders actually have the fourth most salary cap space available according to CapFriendly, with just under $11.2MM available. However, the team does need to re-sign the recently-acquired Romanov, forward Kieffer Bellows, and breakout defenseman Noah Dobson. Between those three, it could command a large portion of their space. Though it may not take all of it, it would most likely bring them below the $7MM needed to, at the very least, match the offer Kadri accepted in Calgary.
To create that space, Lou Lamoriello could have opted to try to move one, or both of, wingers Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier. Though both are solid contributors on Long Island, moving their $5MM or $4.15MM cap hits, respectively, could have created the space necessary to sign a dynamic player like Kadri. Given the cost for Calgary to trade away Sean Monahan, who had just one year left at $6.375MM, the price for the Islanders to move one of their forwards may have been too steep to make it worthwhile. Another option could have been to move goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who carries a $5MM AAV, but is playing behind star netminder Ilya Sorokin. However, Lamoriello made clear his intention to keep the veteran netminder.
Also of note, Friedman added that he does believe deals with Romanov and Dobson are already done, saying he believes Dobson’s deal “is a big number.” Friedman also believes Romanov’s contract could come somewhere in the $3MM AAV range. Having the deals done, but not announced, is in keeping with Lamoriello’s previous dealings, including last summer’s rather late announcements, most notably of a Kyle Palmieri contract. Although Friedman didn’t mention Bellows as having an agreed-upon deal, it is worth noting the winger was arbitration-eligible, but neither him nor the Islanders filed. This surely doesn’t mean a deal is done, but would be a curious choice if nothing had been agreed upon (or could simply indicate very amicable talks between the two).