With the expansion draft come and gone, New York Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello continues to forge ahead with an offseason plan he hopes will keep most of his core together for another run at the Stanley Cup.
Whether New York comes out on the flip side of free agency, which opens July 28, a better team, worse team or the same team is still uncertain, although certain aspects of the picture are becoming more clear.
Nick Leddy was traded to the Detroit Red Wings to free up precious salary cap space, as was Andrew Ladd in a similar move to the Arizona Coyotes. Jordan Eberle, the long-time winger for superstar center Mathew Barzal, was plucked by Seattle general manager Ron Francis on Wednesday night in the expansion draft.
What this means is Lamoriello now has $17,670,812 in available cap space, which will be increased by six million as he spends close to the ceiling and moves Johnny Boychuk to LTIR. Safe estimates from those I’ve spoken to around the league suggest once Adam Pelech (a projected $5 million per year deal), Casey Cizikas (a projected $3.5 million deal), Ilya Sorokin (a projected $2 million deal) and Anthony Beauvillier (a projected $4 million contract) sign new deals, it will leave the Islanders around $9,170,812 in spending power.
Here is what we’re hearing.
Kyle Palmieri and the Islanders, multiple sources have confirmed to NYIHockeyNow what Elliotte Friedman first reported, are in the final stages, if not already completed, a contract extension that will keep the 30-year old winger in the fold and provide Barzal, granted Barry Trotz finally decides to allow it to happen, a new right-winger.
Gabriel Landeskog is ‘intrigued’ by the situation on Long Island and it’s assumed will have, at least, initial discussions with Lamoriello. It’s unseen how New York would be able to fit in his contract demands unless they unloaded Leo Komarov and Thomas Hickey.
How many teams can you dump your bad contracts on in one offseason? Is there a limit? How many general managers really want to help Lamoriello and the New York Islanders get better? The answers will start to come soon enough.
Vladimir Tarasenko is property of the St. Louis Blues, but Lamoriello has serious lines in the water for the winger prior to the expansion draft. NYIHockey Now has heard that the Islanders were hoping for Seattle to hold $3 million of the star wingers’ $7.5 million annual cap hit for the next two seasons. Alas, a deal could not be struck and Francis went ahead and selected Vince Dunn. Now the Blues are saying they can see Vladdy playing again in a Blues uniform. So, nobody really knows where this stands at the moment.
As much a sure thing as the sun rising each morning, everybody, and I do mean everybody, assumes Zach Parise to the New York Islanders is a foregone conclusion. So much so, a league executive texted me the other day simply, “I would fall off my chair if he ends up anywhere else.”
Will Ryan Suter follow is the bigger question. This one, I get more of a 60/40 feel from those I speak to. Some feel as if Suter has made his money and wants to win. Do we think the Islanders will be the only ‘winning’ team to make him an offer, though? It’s still hard to envision Suter signing a minimum deal and he will have plenty of interested parties.
Currently, as constructed, the Islanders have holes to fill. Palmieri for Eberle can be almost considered a wash, offensively. They get Anders Lee back, 100 percent healthy for training camp, so that can be thought of as an “addition” as well. Parise could anchor a much stronger third line with J.G Pageau and we should see a full season out of Oliver Wahlstrom, with much to prove.
The blueline is where it gets dicey. Sure, Noah Dobson took strides in his second season and had some really bright moments in the playoffs, but the learning curve on defense in the NHL is enormous. The depth in Bridgeport is not ready and there’s another year on the body of Andy Greene. In the past two off-seasons, New York has lost Devon Toews and Nick Leddy, who had an important skill in common. They could skate the puck in transition out of the defensive end through the neutral zone. The Islanders have to find a way to, at least, mitigate the loss of that skill set.
With that in mind, the plan is in motion, but far from complete. At the end of it all, we shall reassess and get a much better idea of what the New York Islanders will look like entering another challenging season, one that will have them play their first 13 games on the road, with only one in the Metropolitan area.