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Islanders free agency primer: Top potential targets to pursue when signing period opens

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Johnny Gaudreau Islanders free agency
Johnny Gaudreau (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

With the NHL’s free agency signing period officially opening on Wednesday at noon ET, the Islanders once again find themselves on the periphery of the big-game hunt without the past pedigree to necessarily suggest that they can pull off a game-changing signing. 

After trading their No. 13 pick at the 2022 NHL Draft for defenseman Alexander Romanov, the Islanders once again find themselves in need of a serious scoring boost up front, particularly on the wing given the team’s depth at center. 

A first-line partner for Mathew Barzal would be ideal, but elite goal scorers aren’t just readily available always, meaning the Islanders have to hit it big if they want to check off a nagging, unattainable box on their checklist.

 

Top Sportsbook Offers

Here we rank the top unrestricted free-agent options for the Islanders to look at.

 

Islanders 2022 free-agent options

1) Johnny Gaudreau, LW

  • 2021-22 stats: 40 goals, 75 assists, 115 points with Calgary
  • Age: 28

Gaudreau is by far the best player available in this offseason’s free-agency class, which means the Islanders would have to come through with the biggest offer on the table — which is something that hasn’t been enough for them in the past. But Gaudreau would turn the Islanders’ first line into an elite trio alongside Barzal and Kyle Palmieri.

 

2) David Perron, LW

  • 2021-22 stats: 27 goals, 30 assists, 57 points
  • Age: 34

Perron wouldn’t make the Islanders younger, nor would there be any inclination that he could replicate a career-high 27 goals again. However, playing alongside Barzal would be a slight upgrade in terms of playmaking compared to his former centerman in the resolute Ryan O’Reilly.

 

3) Claude Giroux, F

  • 2021-22 stats: 21 goals, 44 assists, 65 points with Philadelphia and Florida
  • Age: 34

Giroux is listed as a center but he has had experience playing on the wing, which would bring an above-average face-off man to the Islanders’ first line. He’s basically been a point-per-game player for the last 11 seasons even though he’s eclipsed the 30-goal mark just once.

 

4) Nino Niederreiter, RW

  • 2021-22 stats: 24 goals, 20 assists, 44 points with Carolina
  • Age: 29

The former Islanders product has put together a solid career with the Carolina Hurricanes as a physical forward, but he hasn’t scored more than 25 goals in a season.

 

5) Andre Burakovsky, LW

Andre Burakovsky
Colorado Avalanche left wing Andre Burakovsky is congratulated for his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final, Saturday, June 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Locher)
  • 2021-22 stats: 22 goals, 39 assists, 61 points with Colorado
  • Age: 27

Burakovsky is coming off a Stanley Cup run with the Avalanche, which only increases his standing on the market. However, the Islanders have a number of players who can put up between 20 and 25 goals, which is a figure that could decrease considering Burakovsky won’t be playing on such a high-powered offense as he did in Colorado.

 

6) Evander Kane, LW

  • 2021-22 stats: 22 goals, 17 goals, 39 points (43 games) with Edmonton
  • Age: 30

Kane had a monster tenure with the Edmonton Oilers, especially in the postseason when he racked up 13 goals in 15 games. His standing would likely be higher on this list if it wasn’t for off-ice issues or locker-room reputations that could throw a wrench into the Islanders’ chemistry.

 

Restricted free agent longshots

*The two players listed below have been extended qualifying offers from their teams and it currently could be seen as unlikely that they’ll hit the open market. 

1) Matthew Tkachuk, LW

  • 2021-22 stats: 42 goals, 62 assists, 104 points with Calgary
  • Age: 24

If Tkachuk were to hit the free-agent market, all hell would break loose around the NHL as the superstar 24-year-old put together a monstrous campaign with Gaudreau and the Flames. 

 

2) Patrik Laine, RW

  • 2021-22 stats: 26 goals, 30 assists, 56 points (56 games) with Columbus
  • Age: 24

Laine would be the definition of a high-end sniper that the Islanders could use, putting together a strong season with the Blue Jackets despite battling injury issues. It would have been the fourth time in his six pro seasons that he eclipsed the 30-goal mark as he possesses one of the best shots in the game.

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