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.”
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.
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.