A few weeks back I penned my first THW article about who the New York Islanders should go after in restricted free agency outside of the big fish in Matthew Tkachuk and Kevin Fiala. Since that list was published, Jacob Middleton re-signed with the Minnesota Wild but the other three players remain unsigned. Oliver Kylington should be headed back to Calgary as they failed to keep Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau, freeing up a lot of cap space. The Edmonton Oilers re-signed Jesse Puljujärvi, but Kailer Yamamoto was the Oilers forward on my list. Despite the new contract, Puljujärvi still might be traded and it certainly seems like Yamamoto is not going anywhere.
Rasmus Sandin is the only player from the original list that I would keep on the new one, as he is a young, left-handed defenseman with team control into the future. The Islanders would be wise to sign him and give him third-pairing minutes behind Alexander Romanov, especially since the Toronto Maple Leafs already have six blueliners and are currently over the salary cap. So who joins him as a restricted free agent general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders should acquire via trade or offer sheet?
Lawson Crouse is coming off a nice season with the Arizona Coyotes, as the 25-year-old had a career-high 34 points in 65 games last season. The Coyotes are in the middle of their tear-down and can get something for him, who is a little bit too old for their rebuilding window, just like Alex DeBrincat and Brandon Hagel in Chicago. The Coyotes are also trying to amass as many draft picks as possible to speed up the rebuild and allowing Crouse to go on an offer sheet or trading him would be an efficient way to do that this offseason.
Crouse is coming off of a 3-year contract with a $1.53 million annual salary. The Islanders would have to part with a draft pick if they wanted to go the offer sheet route, but they also could package a salary cap dump like Josh Bailey with a pick to free up roster space as well. Trading with Arizona, as they saw last year with the Andrew Ladd trade, can provide good value in terms of clearing the space to improve the team in the long term. Crouse is a left-handed left winger with great size and a fantastic shot. He would be a great fit with Mat Barzal and Zach Parise, as that combination worked well together but could use a little bit of size to complete the unit.
The Detroit Red Wings have plenty of money to pay Filip Zadina for this season, but next year they have Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi extensions to think about. He has a total of 61 points in 160 games in his professional career, which is not what the Red Wings expected for the sixth overall pick in 2018. They would certainly be selling low, but they would also be making room for the face of the franchise to stay home in Michigan for the rest of his career.
As for the Islanders’ angle, playing on the opposite wing of Zach Parise would do Zadina a world of good. The veteran presence of Parise with the playmaking of either Mathew Barzal or Brock Nelson could ignite the potential that scouts saw in him back in his draft year. There is also nothing Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman loves more than draft picks and cap space, which this move would give him plenty of – and it would be the two most secretive general managers in the league working together on a deal. Heck…it could be done already.
Nicolas Roy is the only center on the list and the oldest player, coming in at 25 years old. He scored 15 goals with the Vegas Golden Knights last season, a career-high, and as we know, they can not afford any more players. They have 10 forwards under contract and are already over the cap by $1.39 million. As we have learned over the past six years, they do not seem to have the same respect and consideration for the salary cap that the other 31 teams have, but their luck has to run out at some point. There seems to be a certain amount of scrambling going on in Sin City, as they traded Max Pacioretty for literally nothing earlier this summer. However, losing Roy would actually net them draft picks, what a concept.
Roy and Casey Cizikas have a similar play style and prime Cizikas thrived in the Barry Trotz system, scoring 20 goals in their first season together. Roy is a trained center, but has the body type and versatility to play anywhere on the forward depth chart and can kill penalties. Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck are a great penalty-killing team, but the younger Roy would be able to take some of that pressure off of their shoulders. Anything over $1.38 million would net the Golden Knights more of a return than Pacioretty and Marc-Andre Fleury combined. This is the one on the list that makes the most sense for both teams despite the Golden Knights just needing bodies on the roster. Roy will command a higher payday than Vegas can afford, so they should get something for him while they can.
Related: New York Islanders’ 2022 Offseason Hits Standstill
The Islanders have struck out in the free agency and trade markets, so restricted free agency is where the best value lies. Part of this exercise is to be a little bit realistic, as we obviously know that the Dallas Stars will not let Jason Robertson walk and the Carolina Hurricanes will protect Martin Necas. The Islanders also need to sign their own RFAs in Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov. Once they do that, they should have a little bit of space left to find value in these RFAs at forward. Sandin certainly seems like he is on his way out of Toronto as the odd man out, and every team should be in on him. The Islanders may have the lowest chance to get him because of his high demand but these are still realistic options for Lamoriello and crew.