It was a busy Wednesday that ended with the New York Islanders losing Jordan Eberle in the expansion draft to the Seattle Kraken.
Despite the live results on the ESPN telecast, rumors trickled out earlier in the day that Eberle was headed to Seattle. Leaving both Eberle and Josh Bailey exposed came as a surprise, and many had pegged Bailey as the choice Kraken general manager Ron Francis would make.
Thus, Eberle was plucked, as was his $5.5 million cap hit. Now, the Islanders have approximately $23.7 million in cap space to work with after losing Eberle, trading both Nick Leddy and Andrew Ladd, and eventually moving Johnny Boychuk to long-term injured reserve (LTIR). The majority of the cap space is going to go to the club’s restricted free agents such as Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier, and Ilya Sorokin, as well as pending unrestricted free agent Casey Cizikas. That being said, there will be some money left to play with, and holes to fill.
So, What Comes Next?
Well, the Islanders now have a need on their top line, as well as a second-pairing defenseman. There’s interest between the club and Kyle Palmieri for the Long Island native to return, so it seems like a natural fit. There’s also the long-rumored Zach Parise situation that seemingly gets closer to coming full-circle every day.
However, it seems Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello could have his sights set higher for a top-line need, whereas Parise or Palmieri could be better third-line fits. Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog has reportedly expressed interest in joining the Islanders (among others) if he is to hit the free-agent market. That’s a big if, however, as the Avs still have time to bring their captain back. The St. Louis Blues’ Vladamir Tarasenko, who was also not selected by the Kraken, is definitely going to be moved, and also said he would waive his no-trade clause to play for the Islanders. After The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford spoke to Tarasenko’s surgeon, it was confirmed that the player would come at full health wherever he may land.
“Vlad’s shoulder is very stable and strong,” Dr. Peter Millett said in an exclusive interview. “He told me it is more stable and stronger than it has felt in a long while. To me, it feels rock solid. There is no doubt, Vlad will be 100 percent ready for the upcoming season. I am confident he will be ready to play and that he will make a big impact for his team.” (from, ‘A chip on his shoulder: Vladimir Tarasenko’s doctor says disgruntled Blues star is healthy and motivated,’ The Athletic, 07/20/21)
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With a clean bill of health, the perennial 30-goal scorer would solve some scoring issues for the Islanders, and likely some power-play struggles as well.
Depending on the salaries, it could take some more movement. Landeskog likely requires Lamoriello to move Leo Komarov or Thomas Hickey with assets attached. Tarasenko may come a little cheaper, with some reports suggesting he could be moved with salary retained.
The Islanders desperately need to fill the void left by Leddy as well. It’s not likely that Noah Dobson will step into Leddy’s 20-plus minutes a night after Dobson averaged 16:24 in the 2020-21 season. Jamie Oleksiak was set to hit the free-agent market, and the big, left-handed defenseman would have fit the Islanders blueline in more ways than one. However, the Kraken got crackin’ first, and signed him in their exclusive negotiating window, selecting Oleksiak as their pick from the Dallas Stars, in addition to former Edmonton Oilers defenseman, Adam Larsson.
It’s possible that Parise and Ryan Suter end up on the same team again. Suter is already getting paid by the Minnesota Wild not to play for them, so it’s not unrealistic to assume he’d take less money if he felt he had an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. He’ll be highly coveted on the market, however, so it’s no slam dunk for Lamoriello. Alec Martinez is also available and could prove to be a good option as well. The Islanders just saw Mike Reilly in the second round of the playoffs, and it’s possible his play could have enticed Lamoriello, but if not, Alex Goligoski, Ryan Murray, Keith Yandle, Marc Staal, Zdeno Chara, and Niklas Hjalmarsson are all set to become (or already are) free agents.
Perhaps more than one of those names come, too. The Islanders signed Andy Greene to a one-year extension, but going into his age 39 season, he might serve better on a timeshare.
The roster freeze is lifted as of July 22, at 1 P.M. EST. The picture could become a little clearer between then and Wednesday, July 28, when free agency begins. The Islanders need to replace Eberle and Leddy, and it’s likely Lamoriello wants to upgrade one of the two players he lost. Buckle up, it could be a wild ride.
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James is a THW New York Islanders writer and podcast host of Nassaumen Hockey Podcast. A trusted source for Islanders content for many years at THW, James is passionate about keeping Islander fans up to date on the latest in Islanders news. Other content contributions also include his Co-Editor-in-Chief status for NYIslesBlog.com. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow James on Twitter.