Eberle and Bailey being selected would go a long way to help the Islanders clear even more cap space than they already have, but the Islanders have several unprotected players that could be enticing to Seattle as well. But what ends up happening on Wednesday night is anyone’s guess.
Here’s a look at some of the most enticing options that Seattle has to choose from among the crop of Islanders left unprotected:
Josh Bailey: The veteran Islander was the biggest surprise on Sunday morning when it came to players left unprotected by Lou Lamoriello. Bailey has proven to be a capable top-nine forward for the Islanders and slot in just about anywhere the team needed him. He finished the COVID shortened season with 35 points (eight goals, 27 assists) in 54 regular-season games and put up another 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in 19 playoff games.
Bailey, having played his entire 13-year NHL career, for the Islanders has become one of the team’s leaders and would very easily take up the same mantel in Seattle if he is selected. Could there be a deal in place with the NHL’s newest franchise to keep them from selecting Bailey? Perhaps, Lamoriello has shown he has plenty of tricks up his sleeve.
Jordan Eberle: No one was shocked to see Eberle’s name on the unprotected list, especially after Nick Leddy was traded Friday night. Seattle would be getting someone who can put the puck in the net, albeit at times it comes in ebbs and flows and he has scored over 20 goals since the 2017-18 season. Eberle would play a top-six role for Seattle after playing alongside Mat Barzal on the Islanders’ top line.
His price tag — same with Bailey — could dissuade Seattle if they’re trying to not pay too much. Eberle has three years left with a $5.5 cap hit, which the Islanders would happily shed.
Otto Koivula: The 22-year-old has shown he can succeed at the AHL level and has had a stint in the NHL, which he handled well. Koivula put up 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists) in his first season in North America with the Bridgeport Islanders in 2018-19 and he appeared in 12 games with the New York Islanders the following season. He is one of several RFAs the Islanders have at the moment and he could provide an enticing option for Seattle because of his age and his potential. He would also come at a relatively inexpensive price.
Kieffer Bellows: The young forward could be even more enticing than Koivula considering the upside potential Bellows has. The Islanders had Bellows in the lineup at the beginning of the year, but he found himself on the outside looking in. Bellows appeared in 14 NHL games this season with the Islanders and had three goals, but never managed to stick with a crowded forward group and Barry Trotz’s decision to stick more with veterans in the lineup.
Bellows is another RFA and would come at a low price for Seattle. If he was given a chance, Bellows could make an impact if he was given a chance as an everyday player on an NHL team. That could be appealing to Ron Francis in the NHL Expansion Draft.
Leo Komarov/Thomas Hickey: Both could be interesting choices for Seattle if they so choose to go down the veteran root for cheaper. Komarov proved he still has some value, especially during the playoffs where his physical style drove opposing teams crazy. He played on the top line when needed, but if he ended up in Seattle he would be playing a bottom-six role. He also has one more year left on his contract with a $3 million cap hit, which isn’t too bad for Seattle.
Hickey is a veteran defenseman with a year left on his deal and only a $2.5 million cap hit. Hickey isn’t flashy, but he’s a solid defender and can still play when given the chance. Losing either player would help free up more cap space for the Islanders as well.
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