Islanders Weekly is my series that looks at the performance and outlook of the New York Islanders. Every Thursday, we will take a look at the week that was for the Islanders, highlighting key players and trends while looking at the road ahead.
Related: Last Week’s Islanders Weekly
The Islanders’ second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Semifinal was once again ended by the Tampa Bay Lightning, this time in seven games. New York was able to avoid elimination at home in Game 6 and forced a return to Amalie Arena, where the winner would advance to play the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final. Game 7 was not the Isles’ best game of the series, as they managed just 18 shots on Andrei Vasilevskiy and gave up a shorthanded goal for the second time all season, with this being the only goal in the contest. Tampa Bay advanced to play the Montreal Canadiens, a matchup that wouldn’t be possible in a normal season.
After giving the Nassau Coliseum a proper sendoff, the Isles returned home from a disappointing season-ending loss and will begin preparations for a shortened, but very busy offseason. The team has several high-caliber unrestricted and restricted free agents it needs to figure out how to deal with, along with preparing for the arrival of the NHL’s 32nd team, the Seattle Kraken. Seattle will have its expansion draft in July, where they will be able to select a player from 30 NHL teams to build their roster before their first season of play in the Pacific Division. Determining who to protect from the expansion draft will be among the priorities of New York’s front office over the next few weeks.
The team shared some updates regarding the health of its forwards after the conclusion of its season. The big update was regarding captain Anders Lee, who began practicing during the later stages of the playoffs, but the team was clear in saying he was nowhere close to returning to game action in the playoffs. The Islanders fully expect their captain to be ready for training camp, which this year will be closer than usual with the late start to this past season. While fans knew what to expect with Lee, there was a surprise addition to the injury report that explained some of the lack of production seen in the late rounds of the playoffs.
Center Jean-Gabriel Pageau had surgery on his hand after presumably suffering an injury at the end of the series against the Boston Bruins. The veteran center clearly didn’t look like himself against the Lightning; after totaling three goals and 13 points over the first two series against the Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, Pageau was held scoreless in the seven-game set with Tampa Bay. His line struggled by association without its center operating with his usual efficiency. With Lou Lamoriello stating Pageau should be ready for training camp, the injury should be in the past and he should be good to go come October.
A top priority for the Islanders over the next several weeks has to be preparing for the Seattle Expansion Draft. The Kraken can select one player from every NHL team (except for the exempt Vegas Golden Knights), and the Isles have until July 17 to submit their list of players they wish to protect. The team will most likely opt to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goaltender. The exempt status of key core pieces Oliver Wahlstrom, Noah Dobson, and Ilya Sorokin make the decisions easier for upper management.
The list of who to protect seems straightforward at first glance, but the Islanders could choose to use the expansion draft as an opportunity to shed salary ahead of an offseason where they need to re-sign several key players. The contracts of Jordan Eberle and Nick Leddy are options to be exposed or dealt, while other less valuable assets like Leo Komarov and Andrew Ladd could be shopped around in the hopes of increasing cap flexibility.
Management also has decisions to make on when they want to offer new deals to pending unrestricted free agents. Signing pending UFAs to extensions prior to the expansion draft makes them eligible to be selected by the Kraken. With Kyle Palmieri and Casey Cizikas due to hit the open market, among other assets, the Isles may opt to negotiate before the draft, but wait to put pen to paper until after the expansion draft to maximize the players they’re able to protect.
THW’s Islanders contributors will be taking all these issues into account when they project the Isles’ protection list over the coming weeks.
Playoff Top Performers and Key Dates
Top Performers – Playoffs
- Mathew Barzal: 6 goals, 8 assists
- Brock Nelson: 7 goals, 5 assists
- Josh Bailey: 6 goals, 7 assists
Key Offseason Dates
- 7/17: Seattle Expansion Protection Lists submitted to NHL
- 7/21: Seattle Expansion Draft
- 7/23-24: NHL Entry Draft
- 7/28: NHL Free Agency Begins
Lifelong hockey fan turned writer and Zamboni driver. MBA Sports Management Candidate at Hofstra University. Former Marketing Intern with American Flag Football League & Brooklyn/Long Island Nets.