The New York Islanders began their offseason work while they were still playing games, signing two players thought to be trade-bait, Cal Clutterbuck and Zach Parise, to extensions on trade deadline day. After the conclusion of the season, the team announced the firing of legendary Head Coach Barry Trotz and soon after, the hiring of new Head Coach Lane Lambert, Trotz’s longtime assistant. Since then, things on Long Island have been rather quiet, perhaps due in part to General Manager Lou Lamoriello’s tight-lipped approach and partly due to the Islanders only having one major contract to workout this offseason: an extension for RFA defenseman Noah Dobson.
In his latest 32 Thoughts article, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman touches on the Islanders’ offseason plans, keying in on three players that have been tossed around as possible trade candidates: goaltender Semyon Varlamov and forwards Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Bailey. On Varlamov, Friedman believes the team prefers to keep the veteran goaltender, who is heading into the final year of a four-year, $20MM contract. Seeing the Islanders lean towards keeping Varlamov is a bit surprising, given his status as a trade deadline target this year, and a goaltending market that seems to have unusually high demand as compared to its supply. But, seen at a different angle, the Islanders presumably still view themselves as a playoff team, so having a complimentary piece to Ilya Sorokin in net may be more valuable than any return they could get.
Friedman says he believes the Islanders could also be a “stealth candidate” for impending UFA Johnny Gaudreau, but adds that if they want Gaudreau and an extension with Dobson, they would have to perform cap surgery to make it happen. The sorts of moves it might take to create the amount of cap room to add an impact forward like Gaudreau and extend Dobson, not to mention add one or two defensemen, with just three under contract for next year plus Dobson, could be difficult. For one, the team has already shed the contract of Andrew Ladd, which cost significant assets and merely allowed them to sign forward Kyle Palmieri and traded steady defenseman Nick Leddy away to create more space. Further, the offseason prior, they traded Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche for cap reasons, but suffered the consequence of Toews breaking out into a Norris-caliber defenseman.
The most likely options for the Islanders to make room would be to deal at least one of Varlamov, Beauvillier, or Bailey. Considering the likelihood, or lack thereof, of the team moving Varlamov, that leaves Beauvillier and Bailey. Beauvillier carries a $4.15MM cap hit for the next two seasons, but brings with him an inconsistent track record. Just 25 years old, if the team were to move on from Beauvillier, they may be able to obtain an asset for the forward, but the deal could be more akin to the trade of Toews as opposed to Ladd or Leddy if Beauvillier turns a corner with his new franchise.
Bailey may fall into the category of a salary-cap-dump with two years at $5MM per season left on his contract and soon to be 33-years-old, however the veteran has been a productive player, compiling a 14 goal and 30 assist 2021-22 campaign, spread over 74 games and has had as many as 71 points in a season, coming back in 2017-18. Still, Bailey sits at 993 career games played, all with the Islanders, and given Lamoriello’s track record of loyalty towards his players, a trade of the longest-tenured Islander, especially this close to a milestone like that, may be unlikely.
Beyond the names Friedman mentions, there isn’t much room to move for the Islanders. Palmieri, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech, all of whom are signed for multiple years at reasonably significant cap hits, represent the franchise’s core players. Though Dobson is the only major piece to be signed this offseason, looking ahead to next offseason, the team also needs to extend dynamic center Mathew Barzal and reliable defenseman Scott Mayfield, who is currently making a team-friendly $1.5MM in 2022-23.