Islanders Potential Free Agent Defenseman Targets

The New York Islanders had one clear need during the 2022–23 season, and that was to add a puck-moving defenseman to run their top power-play unit. There are a few options on the unrestricted free agent (UFA) market this summer, but the list is small. Ideally, the Islanders would love for Noah Dobson to continue growing into that role, but they still need another offensive defenseman, and general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello will have to work his way around a tight salary cap structure and players to re-sign before he can find one.

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One of the big questions is whether Scott Mayfield will be back with the team. He is a pending UFA who is due for a big raise. If he doesn’t return, that will open up a spot on the Islanders’ defense. Sebastian Aho proved he can play and contribute offensively when needed last season, but bringing in an experienced offensive defenseman will help elevate the forwards as well. They desperately need a defenseman who can start the rush and help with zone entries. Besides Dobson and Mat Barzal, they didn’t have many players who could enter the zone effectively and carry the puck.

Related: New York Islanders’ 2022-23 Forward Evaluations: Top-6

Here’s a look at some of the UFA defensemen available this offseason.

Dmitry Orlov

The biggest fish on the market will be Boston Bruins defenseman, Dmitry Orlov. Orlov was acquired by the Bruins at the deadline and produced 17 points in 23 games, including four goals. He is also a very versatile defenseman who can play both sides and a physical game when needed. He is also a great skater, with excellent offensive numbers throughout his career with the Washington Capitals.

Dmitry Orlov Boston Bruins
Dmitry Orlov, Boston Bruins (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Orlov is coming off the best offensive campaign of his career, so he will command a big raise. His next contract will most likely have an average annual value (AAV) somewhere between $6-$7 million, and the only way Lamoriello would be able to afford him is to clear out some contracts. If he decides to let Mayfield walk and move on from Josh Bailey, they will have the space for him. Orlov would be a huge acquisition for the Islanders because he would fill multiple team needs.

Damon Severson

The longtime New Jersey Devils defenseman is finishing up a six-year contract signed in 2017. His current AAV is $4.16 million, and the 28-year-old is due for a big raise when he hits the market this summer. Severson is the longest-tenured Devil on the roster, but given their cap situation, it is unlikely they will be able to retain him.

The Devils have roughly $34 million in cap space but have to give new contracts to some big-time players like Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier, Ryan Graves, Erik Haula, and Yegor Sharangovich. Severson will likely be the cap casualty and become a free agent. Throughout his career with the Devils, he has been a reliable defenseman who plays over 20 minutes a night and has offensive ability as well. The Devils would love to keep him around, but they simply have too many players to re-sign.

Related: New York Islanders’ 2022-23 Forward Evaluations: Top-6

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With the rise of John Marino, Severson’s minutes took a hit this season, and he played on the third pairing. The Islanders also have prospect Simon Nemec waiting to come up, so that is another reason Severson will likely go. Also, given Lamoriello’s history of signing former Devils, Severson is someone he will likely target.

Severson will likely command somewhere between $6-7$ million AAV on a long-term deal. If the Islanders can find common ground here and get him under $6 million AAV, it would be a good deal for the team. If they lose Scott Mayfield to free agency, they will need another veteran defenseman to fill the void. Severson provides more offense than Mayfield and is more reliable.

Matt Dumba

The right-shot defenseman has been rumored to be trade bait for the past few seasons. Now, Matt Dumba will get a chance to become a UFA and find a new home. The 28-year-old has been a rock on the Minnesota Wild’s blue line for the past ten seasons, and he just finished the last year of his five-year, $30 million contract.

Dumba is going to attract a lot of interest on the open market. He is a physical, two-way defenseman who isn’t afraid to make a big hit. He has a booming shot and has consistently put up solid offensive numbers throughout his career. He would love to return to the Wild but knows that there is a good chance he has played his last season with them. “My heart is definitely here in Minny,” Dumba said. “I want to win. I want to win here. But I really don’t know what lies ahead” (from ‘Matt Dumba knows staying with Wild might not be in his future,’ StarTribune, 5/2/23).

Matt Dumba Minnesota Wild
Matt Dumba, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

We know Dumba will attract interest this summer, but the question is, how much will he get? If there is a bidding war, his AAV could go as high as $8 million per year. The Islanders simply cannot make that type of financial commitment without moving out multiple contracts. He would be a massive upgrade on the blue line and would fit right into the Islanders’ veteran locker room. It’s unlikely Dumba will fall into their price range, but if Lamoriello can create some cap space, he would be an excellent addition to the team.

These are the three best UFA defensemen available this summer, but there are other options that would be cheaper as well. John Klingberg is another Wild defenseman who was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline. Shayne Gostisbehere is another offensive defenseman who likely won’t cost as much. Lamoriello has options available this summer, and he must find a defenseman who can run the power play and take some of the pressure off Dobson. If they are unable to upgrade via free agency, he will have to explore the trade market.