The New York Islanders made a shocking move on Wednesday as they placed former first-round pick Kieffer Bellows on waivers. Bellows had been passed over twice the previous weekend, first for Nikita Soshnikov and then Ross Johnston, which clearly showed that he was at the bottom of the totem pole.
With the New York Islanders currently only carrying six defensemen, the Islanders need to create a roster spot to get Robin Salo back up.
If Kieffer Bellows was claimed off waivers, the Islanders would have an open roster spot and, in the process, clear $1.2 million off their books.
On the surface, that seemed like the reason for the decision to place Bellows on waivers.
But, and we will find out soon enough, I believe there is much more going on here.
Was New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello trying to find a trade partner, but when no one bit, decided that waivers were the best option?
Nope. I don’t believe that was the case, either. I think that Kieffer Bellows was placed on waivers with the hope that Lamoriello can pull the trigger on a trade to get a veteran defenseman for Scott Mayfield if he passes through.
That spot alongside Mayfield may have been Robin Salo’s spot to start the season, but I would not be so sure it’s his spot going forward.
Salo had some strong showings through his first four games of the season but also a few challenging games. And because of the struggles, the Islanders sent him to Bridgeport to create a roster spot for Sebastian Aho, who won the seventh defensemen job following training camp and preseason.
But Sebastian Aho is what he is; if the Islanders can upgrade at the position, they should.
There are only a few teams that could handle Bellows’ cap hit and only a few teams that have the roster space.
The Arizona Coyotes ($16.9 M in space, no roster spot), Chicago Blackhawks ($6.56 M, roster spot), and Minnesota Wild ($3.57 M, roster spot) could claim Bellows, with the Coyotes having to waive/trade a player to fit him on the NHL roster.
Kieffer Bellows is a native of Edina, Minnesota, so a potential homecoming could be on the horizon.
But if no one would take a flyer on Kieffer Bellows on the waiver wire, could we see a trade coming?
Why would any NHL franchise give up any assets for him when they could have acquired him for “free”?
If a team claims a player off for waivers, he must be placed on their NHL roster. Not to mention a team may need to clear cap space at the NHL level to take on the contract, which could mean a team might have to waive a player of their own.
If the new owner of the player wanted to send him to their AHL affiliate, he would need to go through waivers again and could be picked up by the team that placed him on waivers in the first place–and then sent to their AHL affiliate like we saw with Austin Czarnik last season.
After the New York Islanders placed him on waivers, he was claimed by the Seattle Kraken. But when the Kraken waived him after six games, the Islanders scooped him back up and sent him to Bridgeport.
But if a player passes through waivers, any team can trade for him and place him directly in the AHL. And that’s why Kieffer Bellows would have more value if he passes through waivers. .
But one team the New York Islanders should make a deal with is the Boston Bruins for 29-year-old defenseman Mike Reilly.
On the season, the left-side defenseman has just one assist through seven games but has played 17:07 minutes per game with nine blocks, 12 hits, and just one giveaway.
Mike Reilly has been playing on the bottom defense pairing with Brandon Carlo, as well as playing on the second power-play unit.
Boston’s number one defenseman, 24-year-old Long Island native Charlie McAvoy is expected to return sometime over the next month after undergoing left shoulder arthroscopic stabilization procedure back in early June.
McAvoy participated in Tuesday’s optional morning skate ahead and was not seen wearing a non-contact jersey, per Joe Haggerty of Boston Hockey Now.
Upon his return, the Boston Bruins would need to make a roster move anyway to activate McAvoy and Reilly is likely the player that comes out.
But on Wednesday, Brad Marchand returns for the Boston Bruins, which means they need to create a roster spot. Based on the Bruins lines ahead of their contest with the Detroit Red Wings, Reilly is not in the lineup, and per Ian McLaren, Reilly will likely be sent down in a paper transaction.
Reilly, who is waiver-exempt for a few more games since he was placed on waivers prior to the start of the season, can be re-assigned to Providence (AHL). But you do not keep a $3 million player in the AHL.
With the Boston Bruins not having an abundance of young wingers, Kieffer Bellows could be a perfect acquisition for them, and there should not be any other player needed to make this trade work.
Not to mention, Bellows played one season at Boston University (2016-17).
If the Islanders made this trade, one-for-one, the Islanders would then have $10.837 million in space to play with. If the Islanders wanted to even at the money a bit, they could add Richard Panik’s $1.375 cap hit (Detroit Red Wings retained 50 percent in deal) while getting hit with a $250,000 burying penalty.
The Boston Bruins have north of $6 million in cap space ($6.25 M) and could fit both Bellows and a buried Panik. This move would also allow the Islanders to accrue more cap space, limiting the full cap hit that Reilly’s deal would bring.
This hypothetical trade seems like a move that would benefit both sides.
There are a handful of recent examples where a player was traded after passing through waivers.
On Nov. 16 of 2021, Kyle Clifford was placed on waivers by the St. Louis Blues, only to be traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for future considerations. He was then sent to their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies.
On Feb. 13 of 2021, the Ottawa Senators dealt Cedric Paquette and Alex Galchenyuk to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Ryan Dzingel.
A day later, Galchenyuk was placed on waivers by the Hurricanes, and once he cleared waivers, he was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Egor Korshkov and David Warsofsky.
The Leafs later sent him to the Marlies.
Upon being acquired by the Senators, Dzingel was placed on waivers. When he passed, he was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Nick Ritchie on Feb. 19. Following that move, Dzingel was again placed on waivers, being claimed by the Arizona Coyotes before being claimed off waivers by the San Jose Sharks.
A wild ride for Dzingel there.
We should find over the next coming days, or even as soon as later today, if trading Kieffer Bellows was the New York Islanders’ plan all along with the waiver move.