The Islanders have re-signed restricted-free agent defenseman Scott Mayfield to a two-year contract with a $625K AAV. The 23-year-old has played 11 regular-season games over the last two seasons, scoring one goal. What stands out is that the deal is one way, meaning Mayfield is no longer waiver exempt. If the Islanders try to send him back to the AHL, he would have to go through waivers. If he clears, his salary would be the same as it would in the NHL
In 54 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers this past season, Mayfield had five goals and seven assists. The Islanders selected Mayfield in the second round (34th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.Remember Matt Donovan? The young defenseman sat in the press box two seasons ago for 70 games because he was no longer waiver exempt. The team feared that Donovan would be claimed if they opted to send him to Bridgeport. Donovan was eighth on the depth chart. The defensive core was pretty healthy during that regular season. During the 2015 playoff series against the Washington Capitals, the Islanders were down defensemen Travis Hamonic, Lubomir Visnovsky and Calvin de Haan, Donovan and Mayfield stepped up in Games 6 and 7. Those were the only two games Mayfield played with the Islanders that season.
Mayfield will replace Brian Strait as the team’s seventh defenseman. Mayfield’s AAV is $150K less than Strait, who signed a one-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets. Strait was the perfect seventh defenseman, he could sit for periods of time and play at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately head coach Jack Capuano overplayed the defenseman. Strait played 52 games each of the last two seasons. It would seem as if the general manager has elected not to go with a veteran depth defenseman. Visnovsky and Marek Zidlicky filled that role over the last two seasons.
The 6’4″, 224-pound defenseman’s strong suit is his physical game. Like most young defensemen, Mayfield needs to improve upon his skating. The game needs to slow down for him. Mayfield’s development could be stunted if he is benched for weeks at a time.
Where Does This Leave Pelech?
Now that Mayfield is signed, the Islanders have six defensemen on one-way contracts. Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech are still on their entry-level contracts and do not require waivers. Pulock has likely secured a role in the top six. That leaves Pelech, who missed three months due to thoracic outlet syndrome which required the removal of a rib and some muscle. Pelech needs to play, plain and simple. It is likely that the 22-year-old begins the season in Bridgeport and would be the first call-up in the event of an injury.
The Islanders defense has not been this deep in quite some time.
Noel Fogelman is a 5-time Emmy Winner and started his career working on the Buffalo Sabres Pre and postgame shows for the Empire Sports Network. He then went to Bristol, CT to work at ESPN on NHL2Night and its coverage of the Stanley Cup. Follow me on Twiter @thefirstnoel19