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Free Agency

3 Players the Islanders Should Avoid in Free Agency

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AP Photo/Julio Cortez

The NHL’s 2024 Free Agency Window opens one week from today. The Islanders currently have more questions about their roster than answers. While the expectation is that the Islanders will make a trade or two to clear salary, how they choose to spend what’s left is still unknown.

July 1 sometimes yields some of the best value contracts (See: Zach Hyman), but more often leads to instantly regrettable contracts that can hamstring a team in the present and future. Andrew Ladd says hello. This year’s free-agent class has some diamonds in the rough, but some players immediately come with a huge red flag not to sign them.

Player #1 Anthony Mantha

Anthony Mantha, 29, is a 6’5, 234lb winger who just scored 23 goals and 44 points this season. His size and renewed scoring touch this season have made him somewhat of a commodity in the free agency market. This praise comes despite the fact he has been mired in inconsistency throughout his career, and before this season, he hadn’t scored over 16 since 2018-19, when he scored 25.

Mantha’s shooting percentage nearly doubled this past season from his career, usually around a 10-12% shooter. Mantha shot 20.4% on the season, split between Washington and Vegas. He underwhelmed in Vegas, scoring 3 goals and 10 points in 18 regular-season games before he was healthy scratched for games 4 through 7 of Vegas’ round one defeat to the Dallas Stars.

Mantha hasn’t been a physically imposing player, either. He only had 55 hits in 74 games this season. For reference, Mat Barzal threw 54 hits this season. So this 6’5 player doesn’t throw his weight around, had an inflated shooting percentage this season, and turns 30 in September? That’s a pass before we even get to a contract projection.

Even so, AFPAnalytics projects a Mantha contract to come in at 3x$4.76 million per year. Yowza. While not long-term, it’s not a contract the Islanders can give out. It’s top-six money for a guy who’s not been nearly good enough in recent years to justify such a contract.

Player #2 Jonathan Drouin

Jonathan Drouin, 29, is a 5’11, 198lb skillful winger who’s had a very inconsistent career to this point. However, playing in Colorado this season with Nathan MacKinnon, he set career highs in assists and points. It was also his highest goalscoring season since the 2016-17 season when he scored 21. His numbers this year were 19 goals, 37 assists, and 56 points

Drouin was a highly touted prospect, selected third overall back in 2013, but disappointed. He was traded during the 2017 offseason to the Montreal Canadiens. Injuries, inconsistency, and his very brave time spent in the NHLPA Player Assistance Program affected his time with the Canadiens.

He’s always had flashes of strong ability offensively, but this past season was the best he’s had in a few seasons. He also hasn’t played a full season since 2018-19, but he did play 79 games this year. Overall, he definitely has talent, but the question is if his talent is worth the risk of a contract.

Aside from potential issues of him not playing or being inconsistent, the Islanders need a goalscorer more than anything. Drouin is far more of a playmaker than a goalscorer. That alone makes him a poor candidate for the Islanders to target this offseason.

AFPAnalytics projects a Drouin contract will come in around 4x$5 million per season. That is not a contract the Islanders can afford to give to a player who would not fit the whole the team needs to fill.

Player #3 Adam Henrique

Adam Henrique, 34, is a 6’0, 195lb versatile left winger or center. He previously played under Lou Lamoriello for the New Jersey Devils, where he played a massive role in the Devils’ 2012 run to the Stanley Cup Final. Henrique has a goalscoring touch, to be sure. He regularly pots 20+ goals a season, including on bad Anaheim teams.

He’s been great for the Edmonton Oilers during their playoff run and even larger of a presence in their miraculous Stanley Cup Final comeback. He scored the game-winners in Games 4 and 6. He’s a big game player and has been throughout his career.

He would be a great complementary piece for the New York Islanders, especially as center depth if the team moves on from Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Ultimately, the bigger issue with Henrique is the potential acquisition cost. He’s 34 and the Islanders need to get younger, not older.

AFPAnalytics projects a Henrique contract at 3x$ 4.3 million per year. That’s not a deal the Islanders should sign a 34-year-old to at this point in time. He’s got talent and skill, but Father Time is undefeated and he’s already got the Islanders in a chokehold.