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Free Agency

Goal Scoring State of Mind; Three Fresh Targets for the Islanders



Anthony Duclair battling Noah Dobson earlier this past season

This off-season’s potential UFAs are a mixed bag of talent. The New York Islanders will be shopping, but the question for a cap-strapped team like the Islanders, as always, is to find the best value without shedding an excess of money.

Once again, we will use our friends at PuckPedia and AFPAnalytics to sort through players slated to become UFAs on July 1. While nobody truly knows what Team President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello will get up to, it’s a safe bet he will be active. He already completed his first trade this offseason, which still has a precursor feeling for the Islanders.

Considering the Islanders’ overall cap situation, a safe estimate after re-signings is that the team has around $6-7 million available in space, assuming the team does, in fact, move on from Jean-Gabriel Pageau. The Islanders most likely won’t be moving on from Anders Lee, and in that event, it will price them out from players like Jake Guentzel or Sam Reinhart.

Leading up to free agency at NYI Hockey Now, we will be going through potential top-six additions in bunches of three, starting with the first three options today.

Option #1: Tyler Toffoli

Toffoli is a 32-year-old versatile winger who brings a scoring punch to any roster. He played next to Jack Hughes on the New Jersey Devils. The Devils season spiraled despite Toffoli racking up 26 goals and 44 points in 61 games. Ultimately, dealt to the Winnipeg Jets, he never quite settled in with Winnipeg, not receiving consistent linemates. He isn’t expected to re-sign in Winnipeg.

Toffoli has scored 30+ goals in two consecutive seasons, including 10 and 11 on the power play. Toffoli’s shooting percentage over his career averages 11.5%, but it’s been around 14% in the last two years. However, at 32, bringing him in could be risky, as he’s not getting any younger. Additionally, AFPAnalytics forecasts his contract to 4 years at $6 million, which seems too much money for a player who’s already 32. 

Option #2 Anthony Duclair

Duclair has been a player many Islanders fans have been clamoring for since this past trade deadline when he was available. Tampa Bay traded for Duclair. Once there, he rode shotgun to Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, scoring eight goals and 15 points in 17 games after the deadline. Duclair turns 29 in late August but plays with speed. He’s had an up-and-down career and hasn’t stuck with one team for more than three years. 

Duclair scored 24 goals this past season and reached 31 in 2021-22. Injuries have also played a part in his career, as he hasn’t played an entire season once in his career, having maxed out at 81 all the way back in 2015-16. Another reason Duclair has been cited to join the Islanders is that back in the QMJHL, Duclair played for current Islanders Head Coach Patrick Roy on the Quebec Remparts. 

However, people seem to gloss over the fact that the two clashed back in juniors, with the peak being when Roy suspended a young Anthony Duclair for one game. Then, in Duclair’s draft year, Roy had a say in the Avalanche’s front-office decisions. Duclair slid down the board, and the Avalanche passed on him multiple times.

Perhaps time has healed these wounds, but it’s worth noting they didn’t see eye-to-eye. Duclair was also 17 then, and Roy, self-admittedly, was a little hotheaded. If Duclair is a fit, likely, the issues of the last decade wouldn’t prevent it. 

Duclair’s AFP Projection comes in at 3x$4.3. It’s notably cheaper than it costs to sign Toffoli, and it’s less term. For a multi-time 20-goal scorer who plays with speed, it feels like a decent enough fit for the Islanders. The issue would become, is that enough? It feels like Duclair is better off in the middle six as an eventual Anders Lee replacement, as opposed to a top-line fit with Mat Barzal and Bo Horvat.

Option 3: Vladimir Tarasenko

Tarasenko, 32, is another player with a pedigree that precedes him. It’s well-documented how poorly July 1 went for Tarasenko last year. He scored 23 goals and 55 points this past season, splitting time with Ottawa and Florida. He’s scored 30+ goals six times, including one 40-goal season. He’s a bonafide offensive player, even if he’s taken a step back due to injury and age. 

This year, Tarasenko received the lowest average ice time of his career. Yet, he still put up the number he did, the majority in a totally disastrous season for the Ottawa Senators. Tarasenko has fit in nicely in Florida, but he’s taken a backseat role during the playoffs, having been relegated to their third line and not seeing much power play time.

However, just watching him, you can see he’s still got game. He got sweet revenge on the New York Rangers, scoring the series-winning goal in game six. His step back likely lowers his ultimate price on July 1, which could greatly benefit the Islanders.

AFPAnalytics projects Tarasenko’s contract at two years and $4.1 AAV. He reliably scores 20+ goals and has proven he can contribute anywhere within the top nine. I think pursuing Tarasenko for a short-term deal with the Islanders is a worthwhile investment for the Islanders. Perhaps, as a fellow Russian, he could even help shepherd Maxim Tsyplakov along as he finds his way in the NHL. 


At this point, it seems pretty clear there’s maybe not a perfect free-agent target for the Islanders. Tarasenko or Duclair both seem like solid fits, but Tarasenko has a higher ceiling and would likely require less term. Toffoli likely prices himself out of the Islanders’ range, and I don’t think he’d be the best fit. Duclair is the youngest, so maybe that edges him in front of the pack.

We have yet to get to other options, including Teuvo Teravainen. As June rolls on, it’ll become clearer who’s available and who isn’t. Maybe the Islanders will make a trade instead for Nikolaj Ehlers. Would that take them out of the hunting on July 1?

Through all of this uncertainty, one thing is evident: The Islanders have no shortage of options for improving, and there’s no excuse not to add to the top six anymore.

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Michael Galligan

I can’t wait to see what Lou pulls off !!!! Let’s go Islanders!!!!


If Lou trades Puloch for Ehlers, he creates a hole on defense. If he doesn’t move Pageau & Lee he should be fired. He needs 3 players. Yakov Trenin, Jordan Martinook & Pavel Buchnevich. If he moves Pageau & Lee, he has the $$ to do it. If he only moves Pager, he can sign the 1st two on the list. He is out of options.
He HAS to move Lee, otherwise the box he’s in starts to shrink.