The NHL offseason is nearly over, and former New York Islander Josh Bailey is still yet to find a new home.
After spending the first 15 years of his career with the team, Bailey’s time with the Islanders ended when he was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks back in June. Chicago subsequently bought the veteran forward out of his contract, and he’s remained on the open market ever since.
During his final season with the Islanders, Bailey’s frustration with his lack of playing time was apparent as he appeared in just 64 games. At season’s end, Bailey spoke of his intentions to continue playing, however, he made it clear that he still views himself as an everyday player.
“I think as far as where my role is, if I’m going to be sitting in the stands a lot, it’s not something I want to do,” Bailey said on May 1.
It’s pretty late in the game for Bailey to land a clearly defined role, as teams have already filled their vacancies at this point. Although, he could sign a professional tryout deal. PTOs afford players the chance to earn a contract with a team during training camp while allowing the team to add extra depth and competition.
That seems to be the only option Bailey has unless he opts to retire.
Teams aren’t lining up to sign a 33-year-old forward that doesn’t even rank in the top 50 among active point leaders to a guaranteed contract. Earlier this week, Phil Kessel, who holds the NHL’s longest run of most consecutive games played, said he was willing to end his Iron Man streak to sign with a team in order to keep his career alive. Now, Bailey might have to do the same.
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With over 1,000 games played in the NHL, Bailey’s reputation as a locker room leader is well-known across the league, which makes him a fit for almost any team.
Rebuilding clubs could use someone like Bailey to come in and set an example for their younger players. At the same time, teams with championship aspirations could always use more depth throughout the season.
Two that come to mind are the Nashville Predators and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
After missing the playoffs last year, new Predators general manager and former Islanders head coach Barry Trotz spent money on veteran players this offseason to come in and help reset the team’s culture. Trotz knows Bailey well and might be willing to give him a shot.
On the other hand, the Maple Leafs, one of the favorites to challenge for the Stanley Cup this year, are Bailey’s hometown team. At this stage in his career, the chance to chase the Cup is likely very alluring to Bailey, and getting to play with his former teammate John Tavares again might be as well.
But the question remains whether or not signing a PTO is a reality Bailey is willing to accept.
He may not want to, but watching games from the press level might be the only option Bailey has left. Otherwise, he’ll have to do so from his couch.