If the New York Islanders don’t have a pre-determined deal in place with the Seattle Kraken and do wind up losing Josh Bailey in the Expansion Draft on Wednesday, it will be one of the more shrewd moves in franchise history.
The Islanders made the surprising decision to expose Bailey for the Kraken’s taken despite being a centerpiece of the team’s leadership core and the longest-tenured member of the organization — a rather drastic 180 from a team that has preached family and loyalty over the past three years.
But the writing was scribbled on the wall by team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello during exit interviews late last month.
“This is a very special core group,” he said. “Not only talented, but individually, professionally, and personally. We’ll do everything we can to keep the core together. It’ll be impossible to do that with the expansion draft and free agency.
“These will be difficult decisions. I’d rather have these decisions rather than no decisions at all.”
Granted, those comments were believed to be focused on the big-money contracts like Nick Leddy’s and Jordan Eberle’s that were believed to be leaving this summer while Lamoriello would have been forced to pick and choose his spending on the new deals of Casey Cizikas, Kyle Palmieri, Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier, and Ilya Sorokin.
The Islanders were able to open up cap space by dealing Leddy and Andrew Ladd over the weekend before expectedly putting Eberle and his $5.5 million owed next year on the available list for the Expansion Draft.
Yet Bailey and his $5 million owed next season provides a legitimate inkling that this could be a very different-looking Islanders team to take the ice at UBS Arena next season; unless Lamoriello has a deal in place for the Kraken to take Eberle and pass on Bailey.
The Fourth Period’s Dave Pagnotta reported last week that the Islanders and St. Louis Blues have been in talks for winger Vladimir Tarasenko, with Eberle’s name being mentioned in such negotiations. However, it remains unclear just how far those talks have progressed.
Exposing Bailey helped the Islanders to protect two-thirds of their fourth line in Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck, sending a clear message to the unrestricted free agent, Cizikas, that Lamoriello wants to keep the team’s “Identity Line” intact.
For the nostalgic, sentimental Islanders fan, that’s a best-case scenario. But that doesn’t seem to be the case according to some NHL insiders.
Both TSN’s Frank Seravalli and Jason Gregor on the DFO Rundown Podcast believe that the Kraken will take Bailey, which would cut short a lengthy Islanders career that will ultimately end in his induction into the team’s Hall of Fame.