EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Josh Bailey fully intends to play out the final year of his contract in which he’s owed $5 million next season, though that will likely come with another team rather than a New York Islanders organization he’s called home for the last 15 years.
The 33-year-old winger who ranks third on the Islanders’ all-time games played list with 1,057 — just three behind the legendary Denis Potvin — was a healthy scratch for 10 of the final 13 games of the regular season and did not appear in the six-game loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“It’s a lot to take in,” Bailey said on Monday. “I’ve always thought of myself as an Islander and wanted to play my last game as an Islander. Who knows what it holds now? It’s a lot to take in for my family and I, but it’s part of the business and I understand that. I’m not playing any ‘poor me’ cards by any means. It’s just a lot.”
Bailey, who like most of his teammates was shuffled around the lineup amidst a slew of injuries, failed to settle into any offensive rhythm, which had been at a premium in recent years. In 64 games, he recorded just 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists), and was often the odd man out when first-year head coach Lane Lambert looked to shake up the roster.
“It was really tough [to see],” Islanders captain Anders Lee, who has been teammates with Bailey for 11 years, said. “Knowing Bails and playing with him for a long time and sharing a lot of special moments on and off the ice together, it’s hard to see. He’s a true professional.
“He brings everything he has to the table every day and handles all of these things and this adversity with class. It speaks a lot to his character and what he brings to our room.”
What particularly stuck with Bailey, though, was an early-season scratch that benched him on Oct. 22 against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. It ultimately pushed his 1,000th career game from an Oct. 26 matchup at home against the Rangers — which would have allowed him to celebrate the major milestone with his family and the UBS Arena crowd — to a game two nights later down in Raleigh, NC against the Hurricanes.
“I think looking back on it now, it’s rather telling getting scratched four, five games into the year before my 1,000th game to where we ended up at the end of the season,” Bailey said. “It makes a lot more sense now. But it’s all part of the past.”
Bailey said that there have been no conversations yet on what his future with the team will bring, but he made his stance rather clear.
“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. “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.”