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Free Agency

Here’s How Lou Lamoriello Can Keep the Islanders Core Intact This Offseason



With all exit interviews, including that from team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, now complete, the focus quickly turns to the offseason, which began the day after the Islanders 1-0 loss in Game 7 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

How will Lamoriello be graded? I’d, personally, give him an A if he can figure out how to simply re-sign his own while under salary cap duress.

The expansion draft looms in less than three weeks’ time, on July 21, followed by the opening of free agency on July 28. There is no question New York will lose a piece to the Seattle Kraken, but more importantly, can they keep one of their most valued players on one of their most valued lines, in a blue and orange sweater?

Let’s break it down.

Casey Cizikas skates with the puck during the third period of the National Hockey League game between the Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders.

Possible Islanders Expansion Draft List

You might expect to see Lamoriello swing a deal here to shield himself from having to lose unprotected assets he simply doesn’t want to lose. With limited resources, however, it might not be plausible. Possible, but not plausible. Given what we’ve seen from Lou’s previous bodies of work, it wouldn’t be an enormous surprise to see him force something on Seattle.

The rules are fairly simple and are not different from when Vegas made their selections. The Islanders can choose to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender OR eight forwards/defensemen and one goaltender.

Two forwards and one defenseman, under contract, must be unprotected that meet the following criteria: (1) played 40+ games in 2020-21 OR (2) played 70+ games in each of the last two seasons. One goaltender under contract for 2021-22 or an RFA must also be unprotected.

Give the above requirements and assuming no trades, here is my protected list:

(F) Anders Lee, Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, JG Pageau, Anthony Beauvillier

(D) Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield

(G) Semyon Varlamov

Notable unprotected:

(F) Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, Leo Komarov, Kieffer Bellows, Ross Johnston, Otto Koivula, Michael Dal Colle (only including players under contract or RFAs, as its unlikely Seattle will waste picks on UFAs)

(D) Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey, Sebastian Aho

Notable Exempt:

Oliver Wahlstrom, Simon Holmstrom, Noah Dobson, Samuel Bolduc, Bode Wilde, Ilya Sorokin

The Free Agents

According to Puckpedia, the Islanders have $5,786,666 in available cap space. That number will be adjusted upwards once Johnny Boychuk either officially retires (very unlikely) or is put back on LTIR (definite). That would bump the number to $11,786,666. New York also has $5,750,000 in ‘buried salary’ thanks to Andrew Ladd and Hickey, which could come off should Lamoriello be able to work incredible magic.

Assuming Lou can’t pull a couple of rabbits out of a hat, let’s breakdown the situation for each:

UFA Casey Cizikas: Wants to return, Islanders obviously want him back. Part of the best fourth-line in all hockey, Cizikas, however, owns a ton of leverage here. There are many teams out there who would love to make a play for the gritty, faceoff-winning demon that he has become. His hometown Leafs could come calling. The team from Manhattan greatly needs a player of his skill set. This is all going to hinge on Cizikas making the best decision for him and his family. Sounds eerily familiar, doesn’t it?

UFA Kyle Palmieri: Palmieri had a very solid playoffs for the Islanders and showed his value when the games got tougher. His play in the Tampa series was more a function of the JG Pageau injury and not from lack of effort. He has expressed his desire to return, but might price himself out of the bigger picture. Does he wait for Lou to houseclean? Doubtful.

Kyle Palmieri

UFA Travis Zajac: Could wait for the Cizikas situation to get resolved before ultimately making a decision. Zajac had some moments in the playoffs, but looked like he had trouble at times keeping up with the speed of the game. Could do worse as a fourth-line center should Cizikas move onto greener pastures.

UFA Andy Greene: Would love to continue his career with the Islanders and likely will be able to, on a team friendly deal as the sixth or seventh defenseman.

UFA Braydon Coburn: We hardly knew ya. Next.

RFA Michael Dal Colle: Dal Colle was playing a Barry Trotz game before getting injured, heavy and responsible. The Islanders development of him as a player might have killed his offensive ability, but he is turning into a solid bottom-six player. Expect a light contract renewal here.

RFA Anthony Beauvillier: After scoring 15 goals in 47 games during the regular season, Beauvillier shined in the playoffs, scoring 13 points in 18 games and sending the Islanders to game seven with an incredibly aggressive and alert forecheck. Could be an opportunity here for Lamoriello to go longer-term, less AAV to keep Beau in the fold, which is not in question. An extremely valued top-six forward.

RFA Adam Pelech: Pelech stands to be the highest-paid Islanders free agent after his tremendous year, both in the regular season and especially in the playoffs. Often playing against the opponent’s top forwards, he was as shut down as can be, but started tiring a bit in the Tampa series from all the work. A Norris trophy vote won’t help, nor hurt his cause, either. Thinking is Lamoriello goes shorter term to buy some time to work out a more hefty extension.

RFA Ilya Sorokin: Well, the white whale finally showed up and proved to everyone why he was so valued and why the team was so incredibly patient in getting him here. Even won a playoff round against the powerful Pittsburgh Penguins. He will eventually be the bonafide number one, but not yet, as Semyon Varlamov should continue in that role for a little while longer. As such, a fair but modest raise and extension are coming.