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Free Agency

Islanders, Lamoriello have creative decisions to make during free agency

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The New York Islanders logo at Nassau Coliseum

As the free agency period looms, it’s no secret the New York Islanders don’t have a lot of wiggle room in terms of salary cap space.

So what is New York’s plan when the market opens at the end of this week?

“I think whatever we have to get done, hopefully we will,” Lou Lamoriello said Wednesday. “And we’ll just take it a day at a time.”

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The general manager’s non-answer isn’t surprising, given Lamoriello’s history of keeping things close to the vest. With the flat cap heading into the 2020-21 season, there’s not a ton of — if any — splashy offseason moves the Islanders can make.

The biggest items on the agenda will be internal housekeeping with the restricted free agents on the roster. Top priorities will be Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews, all of which could conceivably receive offer sheets from other organizations. According to PuckPedia, the Islanders have just north of $9 million in space to make moves. And the team reportedly would like to keep unrestricted free agents Derick Brassard, Matt Martin and Andy Greene. Thomas Greiss is almost certainly ticketed for another team.

That could mean looking for creative ways to shed money and contracts, like Andrew Ladd or Johnny Boychuk. That would likely mean losing more Draft picks, which the Islanders were obviously short on this year after the Jean-Gabriel Pageau trade. At this point, dealing a player like Josh Bailey ($5 million cap hit) or Nick Leddy ($5.5 million cap hit) doesn’t seem out of the question.

But when posed the question about making any moves to open up salary space, Lamoriello again was reticent to discuss what New York could do to maintain or upgrade its roster.

“We’ll just have to wait and see exactly what we do,” Lamoriello added.

Given other teams are looking to move contracts, like the Tampa Bay Lightning with Steven Stamkos, that makes things all the more tougher for the Islanders to shop someone like Ladd, who does not become a UFA until 2023-24.

Islanders Add Depth Upfront During 2020 NHL Draft

There’s also the option to attempt to put Ladd on long term injured reserve, but that might be a difficult situation given the winger did suit up at the end of the Islanders’ postseason run. The LTIR was something Lamoriello exploited while running the Maple Leafs, so using this is obviously not something out of the realm of possibilities.

Infusing some offense feels like it would be the final piece of the puzzle to get the Islanders over the hump, but at this point, the New York Islanders are going to have their hands full enough to retain their top-end talent.

What happens Friday might be telling on what Lamoriello and the team plan to do going forward with the future look of this team.

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Free Agency

‘I love it on the Island,’ Mathew Barzal Puts to Bed Thought He’d Want to Play Elsewhere | NYHN+

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Mathew Barzal

It was as if Mathew Barzal was answering all of the naysayers directly on Saturday afternoon after news broke that he had signed a three-year, $21 million contract extension with the New York Islanders.

As the days went on and Barzal remained unsigned, many wondered what the hold up had been. What was taking so long? Former NHLer and Spittin’ Chicklets co-host Paul Bissonette even suggested Barzal hold out for “as long as possible” and that he didn’t think Barzal was having fun playing in Barry Trotz’s system.

That didn’t sit well with Islanders fans.

But Barzal put all of that to rest when he spoke on Saturday, expressing his love for Long Island and reiterating his excitement to be an Islander.

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Free Agency

SIGNED! Islanders, Mathew Barzal Agree on 3-Year Bridge Deal

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Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders

The long wait is over for fans, the New York Islanders, and Mathew Barzal.

The team and Barzal agreed to a new three-year contract on Saturday, per the Fourth Period’s Dave Pagnotta, who delivered the news.

Mathew Barzal’s three-year deal carries a $7 million AAV, according to PuckPedia. TSN’s Darren Dreger reported that Mathew Barzal will be paid $4 million in the first year, $7 million in the second year and $10 million in the final year of the contract.

The news is a welcomed relief to Islanders fans who had been waiting with bated breath after weeks of negotiations between the two sides. Training camp opened earlier this week without the Islanders’ star player on the ice.

However, his absence didn’t concern teammates, who expressed confidence that a deal would be worked out in short order.

Barzal was on the ice for the first time with his teammates on Saturday morning, just after news of the new contract had broke. Making up for lost time, Barzal scored twice in the Islanders’ third scrimmage of training camp, Andrew Gross reported.

Part of the holdup for the deal had been the Islanders’ complicated financial situation. General manager Lou Lamoriello had reportedly been working to try and move some pieces to free up more cap space.

The Islanders had been working with $3.09 million in free cap space.

With Mathew Barzal now agreed to a new deal, the Islanders are now $3.09 million projected over the salary cap with a 21-man roster and Johnny Boychuk’s $6 million cap hit, according to PuckPedia.

The Islanders could still make a move before Tuesday when they need to become cap compliant to start the season.

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Free Agency

CLOCK IS TICKING! Mathew Barzal Remains Unsigned as Training Camp Nears

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Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders

There wasn’t much in the way of an update on where things stand with Mathew Barzal on Thursday when Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello spoke with reporters.

Lamoriello had no update on the Islanders star player, who remains unsigned just days away from the start of training camp. However, Barzal is on Long Island quarantining for the start of camp on Sunday.

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“We will certainly work at this with the hope to have him on the first day of training camp,” Lamoriello said on a Zoom call.

Talks between the Islanders and Mathew Barzal have appeared to be in a holding pattern since the season ended in September. Things between the two sides have picked up recently, but hockey insider Darren Dreger reported on Thursday that a deal was not close.

As the days have inched closer to the start of the season, concern has started to rise among the fanbase. And the Islanders are now in a situation where Barzal may not be on the ice for the start of camp.

Lamoriello wouldn’t even contemplate that thought when asked about it on Thursday.

“We still have a few days until training camp, so I don’t want to get into any hypotheticals,” Lamoriello responded. “It is our intention and his intention to be there and hopefully that will happen.”

Lou Speaks: Ho-Sang Snub, UFAs and Barzal Drama

The expectation is that Mathew Barzal will get a bridge deal in the neighborhood of two or three years worth around $7 million per year. Earlier on Thursday, fellow restricted free agent, Pierre-Luc Dubois signed a two-year, $10 million extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Islanders have been in a bit of a cap crunch since the offseason began. They currently have $3.9 million in cap space, but with Johnny Boychuk ending his career in November, the Islanders will get a bit more cap space to work with.

The Islanders could make an additional maneuver to free up some more cap space before the season begins.

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