Seattle Expansion Draft Could Actually Help Islanders

With next summer’s expansion draft looming, many teams around the NHL are being conscious of their moves to keep their cores intact. While some clubs are worried about losing talent, others are more worried about their financial situations. These teams could actually benefit from having a player taken from them, giving them some much-needed salary relief.

Salary cap complications as a result of this year’s shortened season have left quite a few organizations looking to get rid of their long-term and expensive contracts. Since so many teams are looking to get rid of their ugly contracts, the arrival of the Seattle Kraken comes at a perfect time.

The New York Islanders are one of these teams, and could benefit greatly from Seattle taking on a contract of one of their underwhelming players. As tough of a time as the Isles are having with navigating this offseason, they will have just as many crucial decisions to make in a year’s time. The team is currently struggling to fit under the salary cap to sign its restricted free agents, and looks poised to be in the same boat next offseason.

Related: The Vegas Expansion Draft: One Year Later

In looking at what the team had to do when the Vegas Golden Knights entered the league, it becomes more clear what might have to be done to fix the team’s current financial situation.

Outcome of Vegas Draft

The Islanders were in a similar position in 2017 when the Golden Knights were joining the league. Rather than worrying about their contracts, the team was concerned with losing key pieces of their playoff roster. After realizing that a few vital players had to be left unprotected, the Isles sent assets to the newest NHL team to ensure that they could determine who would be selected from their roster.

After pairing Mikhail Grabovski with some picks and a prospect, the Islanders successfully avoided losing a significant piece of their offense. The team narrowly avoided a detrimental loss, as the likes of Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson were available for the Golden Knights to select.

Former Islanders Forward Mikhail Grabovski was shipped to
Vegas in 2017 during the Expansion Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

While their focus this time around is more on saving money than it is keeping talent, the team should still look to cook up a deal with the Kraken.

Dealing with Seattle

The Seattle expansion draft is still months away, and much can change from now until then. Mock drafts that were made mere months ago are already far outdated after just the first two weeks of NHL free agency. However, with general manager Lou Lamoriello making his intentions for this offseason clear, it looks like the team’s focus is on keeping the core group together. (from ‘Lou Lamoriello’s early plan for Islanders to take next step,’ New York Post, 09/29/2020) After already shipping young defenseman Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche to give the team more cap flexibility, it wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect the team to stand pat from here on out.

Devon Toews New York Islanders
Devon Toews, former New York Islander (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Since it appears Lamoriello will only make minor free agent signings, if he explores the market at all, the Islanders’ current roster looks like it will be the same one entering the expansion draft. With current expansion rules, a major top-six forward like Jordan Eberle or Josh Bailey would likely be available for the Kraken to select. Losing a player of that caliber would surely hurt the team’s chances to remain a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference.

New York would certainly prefer to find a way to get rid of one of their bad contracts, albeit sacrificing other assets in the process. Doing this would be reminiscent of the 2017 draft, when the Islanders made the most of a difficult circumstance. They found a way to protect their prized assets then, and their fans on Long Island are hoping they’ll be able to keep the team intact once again. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Lamoriello attempt to pair one of the contracts he’s been trying to ship out this offseason with a sweetener or two to protect the core he’s spoken so highly of.