Islanders Make Surprise Selections on Expansion Draft Protection List

The New York Islanders revealed their protection list for the NHL Expansion Draft Sunday morning, and there were a few surprises.

The Islanders protected forwards Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, J-G Pageau, Mathew Barzal, Anthony Beauvillier, Cal Clutterbuck, and Matt Martin; defenseman Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield; and goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Those notables left unprotected are Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Leo Komarov, Andy Greene, Sebastian Aho, Thomas Hickey, Michael Dal Colle, Kieffer Bellows, and Otto Koivula. Those exempt from the expansion draft are Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, and Ilya Sorokin.

The Islanders’ unrestricted free agents (UFA), such as Casey Cizikas and Kyle Palmieri, are also left unprotected, but it’s hard to imagine the Seattle Kraken taking a gamble on them unless they sign a contract in Seattle’s exclusive window to talk to UFAs before the draft.

The biggest surprises on the Islanders’ protection list comes in the form of Martin and Clutterbuck. It’s a pretty good indication that general manager (GM) Lou Lamoriello knows that Cizikas will be returning to the Islanders next season being that he protected his linemates. As restricted free agents, Pelech and Beauvillier were also protected, but it was expected they would be returning as core members of the roster. What those deals may look like is unknown right now, and the earliest anyone will know is Thursday, July 22 at 1 p.m. EST, when the NHL roster freeze has been lifted.

Surprise Exposure

What many didn’t expect either was for Bailey, a career Islander, to be left unprotected.

Lamoriello had a busy day on Saturday clearing cap space for the Islanders in the form of Andrew Ladd. He sent Ladd to the Arizona Coyotes with a second-round pick this year, a 2022 conditional second-round pick, and a 2023 conditional third-round pick. The day before, he sent Nick Leddy to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Richard Panik and a 2021 second-round pick (originally from the Edmonton Oilers). Before the expansion draft, Lamoriello now projects to have $18,170,812, including Andy Greene’s new one-year, $750,000 contract, signed on Saturday before the roster freeze. That number will only go higher post-expansion draft.

The question is, how high will that number go? Eberle carries a cap hit of $5.5 million, and Bailey $5 million. It’s hard to imagine Bailey playing in any other sweater than an Islander sweater, so one questions if Lamoriello has a deal in place that would become official after the expansion draft luring Kraken GM Ron Francis away from Bailey. “Bailey has spent 13 seasons with the Islanders, ranking third in franchise history in games played and fifth in assists — making his inclusion on the unprotected list the most notable decision of the team,” said Joe Pantorno of amNY.

The Islanders would certainly have options to replace Eberle or Bailey if one were to be selected by Seattle. Palmieri has already stated he wants to return to the Islanders, and the organization wants Palmieri to return as well. Lamoriello certainly has the cap room to make that happen either way, but he may look to upgrade his first line with names like Gabriel Landeskog possibly hitting the free-agent market.

According to Elliotte Friedman on his 31 Thoughts podcast, he had heard that Lamoriello may have been trying to incentivize the Kraken to select Islanders AHL goaltender, Ken Appleby.

The expansion draft is set to take place this Wednesday, July 21, at 8 p.m. EST. With plenty of surprise names available for the Kraken across the NHL, you might expect their inaugural season to be just as successful as the Vegas Golden Knights. The Islanders are prepared to lose a player, but in what will be a busy month, now with plenty of cap space for Lamoriello, he has the ability to fill a void that will possibly be left.

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