EAST MEADOW — Lou Lamoriello values loyalty but understands that it will get you so far — especially when it comes to the uncertain future of Josh Bailey, whose 15-year run with the New York Islanders looks as though it’s coming to an end.
“Loyalty will never get in the way of impeding progress or making whatever decisions I have a responsibility to make. Never,” Lamoriello said on Tuesday. “In Josh’s case, it looks like maybe it’s near the end for him here. In our situation, I think Josh and I have a man-to-man relationship as far as honesty and we will work with him, whatever to help him.
“But my priority is doing what’s best for the team.”
The 33-year-old was benched for the entirety of the postseason after being scratched down the stretch of the regular season. In 64 games, he recorded just 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) — the fewest games played and points recorded since the 2012-13 season when he was just 23.
That kind of production paired with the obvious lack of trust from head coach Lane Lambert makes the winger’s $5 million cap hit for next season — the final year of his deal — all the more unreasonable for a team that will have to shed cap space to retain some other free agents and find upgrades on the open market.
Bailey himself said he had no intention of repeating the final stretch of the 2022-23 season in the final year of his contract.
“As far as where my role is, if I’m going to be sitting in the stands a lot, it’s not something I want to do,” he said during exit interviews last month. “I got another year left in my deal and I intend on playing it out so we’ll see what happens… I think I can play at a high level, no question. We’ll see what it all holds.”
That means the most likely scenario for Bailey will be for Lamoriello to find a trade partner and eat some of that contract in the process.