The New York Islanders have taken care of business with their last notable restricted free agent, re-signing forward Oliver Wahlstrom to a one-year deal. The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz reports that Wahlstrom agreed to his qualifying offer, which would carry a cap hit of just $874,125 next season.
The 23-year-old sniper went 11th overall to the Islanders in the 2018 NHL Draft, but he’s yet to really hit his stride as a pro hockey player. Last season certainly didn’t help matters – a lower-body injury kept him out past the new year and limited him to just 35 games.
He’s played 161 NHL games thus far in his career, notching decent production with 32 goals and 61 points, but he hasn’t cemented himself in a top-six role yet. That’s what he was drafted to do, and he’ll need to impress in his standard third-line minutes in order to move up a famously rigid Islanders depth chart.
He should get some help playing alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau, one of the better third-line centers in the league, but he’ll likely need some more power play opportunities under head coach Lane Lambert to get his goal-scoring confidence back after a trying couple of campaigns.
This is an important signing for the Islanders to get done in salary cap terms. They had very little flexibility, and getting Wahlstrom to agree to his qualifying offer leaves them with just enough space to remain cap-compliant to start the season with a full 23-player roster with no corresponding moves. However, it won’t be much – likely less than $500K of cap space on opening night.
If the Islanders are to reach the playoffs again in a competitive Eastern Conference, Wahlstrom’s depth scoring will likely be a big part of it. He’s set to be a restricted free agent again next summer.