The New York Islanders don’t have a lot of cap space and for them to make any significant free agent signings they would need to move some of their more expensive contracts to other teams. That being said once the Islanders do clear some cap space and re-sign restricted free agents Mathew Barzal and Ryan Pulock, there could still be some intriguing options on the market.
One of the most appealing would be free agent forward Anthony Duclair.
The 25-year-old was allowed to become an unrestricted free agent after the Ottawa Senators opted not to tender him a qualifying offer earlier this October The two sides failed to reach an agreement after Duclair decided to represent himself in negotiations.
“I don’t really want to get into the specifics of the negotiations,” Dorion told Ottawa Media at the time. “All I will say on this was that Anthony chose to represent himself. We told him from Day 1 that it’s not easy to represent yourself. We offered him a substantial raise over what he made last year and it’s unfortunate we couldn’t come to a contract agreement.
“We don’t close the door on anything, but he will explore unrestricted free agency.”
Since then Duclair has remained unsigned. There have been a few teams that have shown some interest, but nearly into the start of November he remains on the open market.
This bodes well for the Islanders, who could benefit from Duclair’s scoring touch that could come at a more reasonable rate as the days and months go on. As we’ve seen with other players like Taylor Hall, Duclair could be amenable to sign a one-year deal at a rate somewhere around $1 million or $2 million as a way to showcase what he could bring to the Islanders or another team on a longer deal.
With 23 goals and 17 assists in 66 games with Ottawa last season, Duclair could be a versatile option for the Islanders. He has the ability to slot well on New York’s third line alongside former Ottawa teammate Jean-Gabriel Pageau, especially if the Islanders trade Leo Komarov or don’t resign Derick Brassard.
Duclair could complement the line and bring an added scoring touch to the bottom six of the Islanders lineup. He could also be utilized in a top-six role if head coach Barry Trotz wanted to give him a chance on a line with Barzal or on the second line.
He does have some defensive liabilities in his game, but considering the success of Trotz’s defensive style, that issue could be rectified on Long Island.
The Islanders have a lot to sort out before they can look at a player like Duclair. Barzal is the team’s most important piece that they need to take care of, followed very closely by Pulock. Deals for Andy Greene, Matt Martin and Derick Brassard are also being worked on or have already been worked out.
The same goes for veteran goaltender Cory Schneider, but Duclair should be a player that Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders keep in mind once those items are taken care of.