Where Do The New York Islanders Go From Here?
The final goal scored by an Islander at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum was a blockbuster overtime winner by Anthony Beauvillier, extending their storybook season to a game seven in the conference finals. Unfortunately, game 7 did not have as pleasing of an ending for Isles Faithful. Falling short a second season in a row, the questions arise, what’s next on the island?
The expansion draft is a mere 24 days away, and it’s also a big season for UFAs and RFAs. The New York Islanders have six unrestricted free agents and five restricted free agents. The restricted free agents include Anthony Beauvillier, Ilya Sorokin, and Adam Pelech. Michael Dal Cole is also an RFA, but I think it’s time he parts ways. I’m not concerned with Beauvillier, Sorokin, and Pelech not re-signing. I’m sure Anthony will sign something massive like his bestie Mat Barzal did last offseason. Sorokin and Pelech will probably sign 3 or 5 year extensions.
UFAs include Casey Cizikas, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, Braydon Coburn, and Corey Schnieder. Now, with that being said, I didn’t know who Braydon Coburn was until I looked it up. I have never seen Corey Schnieder in the net, so I’d be a little bit surprised if Lou used that cap space on someone so… Replaceable. There is very little doubt in my mind that Palmieri will re-sign. I suppose there’s always the possibility that he and Zajac go back to New Jersey, but they made a very large impact for this team after losing Anders Lee in mid-march. I hate to say it, and it physically hurts me in my heart, but I just don’t know if Casey Cizikas will be a New York Islander next season. There are only so many forwards they can protect. However, there are some loopholes in the expansion rules they can explore. And we all know how the league feels about loopholes… *cough* Tampa is $18 million over the cap *cough*.
Protected List & Exempt players
There are so many rules and exceptions when it comes to the expansion draft that I physically do not have enough brain cells to comprehend it all. But I do know for sure that players still on an entry-level contract (ELC) are exempt from the Seattle homicide. For the New York Islanders, that means Noah Dobson, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Ilya Sorokin are all safe.
Most teams go with the 7-3-1 strategy, meaning they protect 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, and 1 goalie. Unless Barry Trotz has some unknown goaltending skills, Varlamov will take that goalie space. My projections for the protected defensemen are Scotty Mayfield, Ryan Pulock, and Adam Pelech. The forward lines are pretty predictable. You’d be an absolute imbecile not to protect Anthony Beauvillier, Jordan Eberle, and Mat Barzal. Barzal’s contract is probably too hefty for anyone to pick up, but better to be safe than missing a top-line center. Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey, JG Pageau, and Anders Lee would fill the remaining 4 places. Unfortunately, Lee is not exempt despite his ACL tear.
Acquire it somewhere
I don’t know how and I don’t know where from, but they need more speed. When he’s not turning the puck over in the neutral zone, Barzal is often the first one into the offensive zone with absolutely no backup. And it’s not for lack of effort from his linemates. They simply cannot keep up with him. He needs someone who can move even remotely close to his speed. I know you saw that goal against Buffalo on March 6th.
With all of that being said, no one saw this coming. 17 out of 18 writers at NHL.com predicted them to be a bottom 5 team. Most writers at The Athletic and SportsNet put them at 27 and 29 in the league. No one saw the pesky New York Islanders finishing third in the National Hockey League. Above the cup favorite Colorado Avalanche AND Vegas Golden Knights. “The bubble was a fluke” “They wouldn’t have made it that far without all that time off.” My aunt Petunia they wouldn’t have. This season was a testament to how badly they want it and how hard they’re willing to work for it. This wasn’t their time, and that’s okay. They lost to the Ranger two seasons in a row in the 70s. Ya know what they did after that? They won the cup. Four times. In a row.
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