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Islanders free-agency lookahead: 4 contracts that could create cap space

Josh Bailey Islanders
Josh Bailey (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

The 2022 offseason was always expected to be one of change for the New York Islanders, but not at this level. 

After a “mentally crushing” season that featured 13 road games to start the campaign, multiple COVID breakouts, and injuries, the Islanders missed the playoffs for the first time since 2018, resulting in the still-surprising firing of head coach Barry Trotz.

His lead assistant, Lane Lambert, has taken the reins as Islanders bench boss where he inherits a roster that still has its core of the team that made back-to-back Stanley Cup semifinals, but obviously needs much, much more. 

But the onus of all this ultimately falls on general manager Lou Lamoriello’s shoulders, who cut ties with Trotz despite the legendary head coach getting the most out of a team that looked all too unassuming (due to salary-cap issues) on paper during his four-year stint with the organization.

To save his already deteriorating Long Island legacy, Lamoriello has to fill gaping holes this offseason to get the Islanders back to legitimate playoff contenders next season and beyond. 

That’s no easy feat considering the team currently has a projected $12 million in cap space (h/t CapFriendly), has just three defensemen signed through 2022-23, and still must find long-term contracts for budding blueliner Noah Dobson and playmaking center Mathew Barzal. 

On top of finding legitimate defensive depth to pair with Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, and Dobson, the Islanders are still searching for an elusive, elite goal-scorer to put up on the first line.

Needless to say, that $12 million in cap space has to increase in order for Lamoriello to check off all the boxes, meaning some contracts on the books could be in jeopardy of being sent elsewhere:

Islanders contracts to watch

1) Josh Bailey

  • 2022-23 cap hit: $5 million
  • Signed through: 2023-24

Bailey is the longest-tenured Islander of this generation, ranking third in franchise history with 993 games played. While he’s long been considered an integral leader and a “glue guy” for the locker room, his production isn’t one that lines up with a player making that kind of money. In 74 games last year, he recorded 44 points and has hit the 50-point plateau just three times in his 14 NHL seasons. 

 

2) Semyon Varlamov

  • 2022-23 cap hit: $5 million
  • Signed through: 2022-23

Varlamov’s name had come up during the trade deadline as a logical deal to make considering Ilya Sorokin has quickly asserted himself as the No. 1 netminder of the future. But the two Russian goalies have a tight bond and Lamoriello has maintained the importance of a solid goaltending tandem. If Varlamov stays, the Islanders have one of the best duos in the league. However, Lamoriello could get a decent return from a goalie-needy team should he float his name out on the market.

 

3) Anthony Beauvillier

  • 2022-23 cap hit: $4.15 million
  • Signed through: 2023-24

Despite being just 25 years old and already having six NHL seasons under his belt, Beauvillier failed to take that next step as a legitimate second-line scorer. He actually regressed, scoring just 12 goals in 75 games after posting 15 in 47 the year before. Still a young skill player that could thrive in a more offensive system, Beauvillier’s name has dotted trade rumors throughout the summer.

 

4) Matt Martin

  • 2022-23 cap hit: $1.5 million
  • Signed through: 2023-24

This one will likely create quite the divide within the Islanders fan base considering how well-respected and beloved Martin is. The 33-year-old has spent 11 of his 13 pro seasons with the Islanders and is one-third of the team’s “identity” fourth line alongside Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas. Lamoriello clearly wants to keep that group intact after signing Clutterbuck to a two-year extension before the trade deadline, but Ross Johnston is lurking as a Martin replacement — playing a similar style and five years younger while providing less of a cap hit ($1.1 million AAV through 2025-26).

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