The New York Islanders’ offseason is at a standstill, at least from where we sit. There are a number of unsubstantiated rumors and speculation we needn’t discuss here to go along with complete radio silence from general manager Lou Lamoriello. As we continue to imagine the future of the Islanders’ roster with little to no knowledge at our disposal, there appears to be an option or two for Lamoriello to consider in order to sign Nazem Kadri and make a trade for their coveted first-line winger.
Islanders’ Moves to Sign Kadri
It’s no secret that Josh Bailey’s $5 million cap hit is a bit of a burden on the Islanders this offseason. Lamoriello had an easier time the last two offseasons in unloading some extra dollars, including Andrew Ladd (trade), Leo Komarov (contract termination), Johnny Boychuk (LTIR trade), and Nick Leddy (trade), but appears to be having a more challenging time this summer moving money out the door.
Bailey’s contract is interesting; while the $5 million is troublesome upfront, he’s only making $3.5 million “real” dollars in the final two years of his contract. For teams that don’t have the cash to pay players but need help reaching the cap floor, or simply need players like the Arizona Coyotes, this could be an attractive trade for both sides. He could also be attractive to some teams that may benefit from the veteran presence of a player like Bailey. The Anaheim Ducks, for instance, have been loading up on veterans to surround their youngsters. Is the West Coast an option for him? Nothing is pointing that way in terms of reports, but there appear to be at least some avenues for Lamoriello, even if it cost him an asset to move Bailey out.
This, of course, would open up a bit of room for Lamoriello to sign Kadri. The two have a connection dating back to their days together with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he had high praise for the center, ultimately signing him to a six-year deal that just ended on July 1. While there isn’t much to go off of, some reports have emerged indicating Kadri and the Islanders have a high probability of making something work. Others, like Frank Seravalli on the DFO Rundown, say things aren’t as locked down.
“My understanding is that they’ve [Kadri and his agent] continued to engage with other teams. For all the reports that Nazem Kadri has something locked up with the New York Islanders, I think that’s premature to say. I do think the Islanders have been one of the teams that have been in conversation with Kadri; I think they put an offer on the table. Other teams have told me they believe it’s in the $7 million by 7 range for Kadri. And at this point, obviously, it’s not signed and the fact that they continue to talk to other teams tells me at least that they also haven’t agreed to terms of the New York Islanders. So, may end up there? It’s certainly possible, but they also need to move money in order to make it work.”
The conflicting reports have made the dog days of the summer at least half interesting for Islanders fans, who continue to debate whether or not Kadri would be a good fit and if the speculative seven years, $7 million is worth it for a 32-year-old forward. If the Islanders do, in fact, sign him, it would leave them in an interesting situation with two scenarios. The first is that someone in the Islanders’ top six would move to the wing, or perhaps Kadri himself.
Brock Nelson, coming off a 37-goal season, or Mathew Barzal, the team’s top forward, are the candidates in this category, neither of which sit well. The other option is to trade one of their centers. Nelson and Barzal aren’t likely to get moved along with Casey Cizikas, who has five more years left on his deal. That leaves J.G. Pageau as the odd man out.
Islanders’ Trade Pageau for Winger
What’s interesting about the prospect of moving Pageau isn’t the fact that it allows the Islanders to essentially swap centers. It’s that, with the presumed departure of Bailey – or through other means – it leaves a space open in the forward group for the top winger many have been clamoring for. What does that have to do with Pageau, though? The 29-year-old center acquired in February 2020 is an asset, one that Lamoriello could use in a deal for a top winger.
There are plenty of reasons to keep Pageau; he’s one of the best third-line centers in the league, kills penalties, plays on the second powerplay unit, and seems to have finally clicked with Kyle Palmieri late last season. He has some high-end offensive talent, albeit a little inconsistent. But for a third-line center, he plays his role well and has been a great Islander since being acquired. With that being said, all of the aforementioned reasons – save for the connection with Palmieri – to keep him could also be used in a discussion with another team looking to add a talented center locked up for four more years at $5 million in average annual value.
What could a trade involving Pageau yield? Well, that has to do with what he’s packaged with and what Lamoriello is willing to give up. Perhaps a deal including Pageau could retrieve J.T. Miller, a player rumored to have been nearly traded to the Islanders at the 2022 NHL Draft? It would certainly make financial sense for the Islanders, and alleviate $250,000 from the Vancouver Canucks’ payroll. Does that ultimately help them? It’s hard to say. Regardless, whether it’s for Miller or another player, including Pageau in some type of deal, if Kadri does end up on the Island, it would fall into the “hockey trade” category Lamoriello mentioned a number of times near the end of last season.
With a little more than a month until the Islanders hit the ice for training camp, speculation will continue to swirl until a deal for Kadri is made, whether it’s with the Islanders or he ends up elsewhere. The question about the team’s offense and needs will also simmer throughout the rest of the summer, causing fits for those trying to piece together what the team will look like next season. For now, we sit and wait, and watch Islanders prospects at the World Juniors.