NASHVILLE–Very rarely do you see a player making quality money spend time in the scratch house, but New York Islanders forward Josh Bailey found himself a healthy scratch for a second straight game, as he was not dressed for Thursday’s tilt with the Nashville Predators.
Josh Bailey has one year remaining on his contract, a deal that pays $5 million per season.
Head coach Lane Lambert’s reasoning for scratching Bailey each of the last two days was due to Ross Johnston’s physicality and not because of Bailey’s play. Lambert has not thrown any of his players under the bus, and there is no reason to believe he will start now.
At Thursday’s morning skate, Lambert responded to Bailey being held out.
“Josh is a huge part of our team going forward, huge part of the leadership group,” Lambert said following Thursday’s morning skate. “And sometimes, there’s certain decisions that happen, and players just have to deal with it, and we have to deal with it, but he’s a huge part of our team moving forward.”
Following the game, Lambert said that Bailey scratch was opponent specific.
To make matters worse for this situation, Johnston was taken out of the rotation halfway through the game because of the need for offense.
While it may be the second straight game that Bailey has not played, it is the third time this season he has been a healthy scratch. The first time came back on Oct 22, a 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in which his replacement, Nikita Soshnikov (recently waived), made a critical error.
In 15 games this season, Bailey has just three goals and two assists. He has moved up and down the lineup, but Lambert hasn’t seen the improvement that he wants from the 33-year-old yet.
He has 23 shots on the season (1.53 per), with an Expected Goals For of 2.45, with 25 individual scoring chances. Ten have been considered high-danger chances per Natural Stat Trick.
On Oct. 28 against the Carolina Hurricanes, Bailey, the longest-tenured Islander, celebrated his 1,000th NHL game. He became just the 36th player to accomplish that feat with a single franchise. That milestone game was supposed to be played against the New York Rangers, but his early-season scratch postponed things by one game.
The loyalty factor may have come into play this offseason, as the Islanders could have used more cap space when free agency began, but Lamoriello decided to either not make any moves or could not get the proper return for moving said players.
“I always wanted to be here. There was never a thought of wanting to go anywhere else,” Bailey said following that game. “I’m a loyal guy, and I felt the loyalty in return, too, so it’s a two-way street when it comes to that.”
Although it seems that Josh Bailey is not going anywhere, at least for now, his lack of playing time as of late shows that he may no longer be a starter in the lineup moving forward.
New York faces the Dallas Stars on Saturday, which will be another physical bout. The belief is that Bailey will sit for a third straight game, but we shall see.
Loyalty has been something that Lamoriello has always stood for, as we saw with Zdeno Chara and Andy Greene last season. Both could have been dealt at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, but Lamoriello said they wanted to stay rather than compete for a Stanley Cup with a different team–and he honored their wishes.
Bailey has been adamant about staying with this organization, but Lamoriello has to decide if having a $5 million man on the bench on a nightly basis is worth it for his hockey club or if a trade to clear that cap hit makes sense.
Bailey does not have any trade implications on his contract.