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The New York Islanders are set for an important offseason, with the team needing some major additions.
In order to make those additions though, the Islanders likely need to clear cap space first. I’ve talked about Semyon Varlamov being the team’s most obvious trade chip, being that the Islanders have a great goalie in Ilya Sorokin and dealing Varlamov could bring back some assets, while clearing cap space at the same time. However, if the team were to deal a key skater, Josh Bailey looks to be the most obvious choice.
Bailey had two strong playoff runs in 2020 and 2021 and it would’ve been ideal to capitalize on his value then. Bailey could've been dealt as either part of a package or simply to clear cap space, making way for the Islanders to target a legitimate top forward.
I still think Bailey provides alright value for his deal, generally on pace for right around 50 points per 82 games at a $5 million cap hit. That said, it’s also fair to criticize inconsistencies in his game, where he can be impactful for stretches but then disappear a bit.
We already know all the key fixtures in the Islanders' defense group are safe, being that each of them provides very good value for their contract and Noah Dobson, who’s a restricted free agent, is poised for a lot of success. Then up front, we can cross a lot of players off a potential list of players to be dealt.
The Islanders are fine up the middle – Mathew Barzal is the team’s top forward, Brock Nelson had a breakout year and Jean-Gabriel Pageau is strong defensively and decently productive for a third-line center, meaning it’s really on the wing that New York needs the help.
Anders Lee’s full no-trade clause, $7 million cap hit and status as captain means he’s not going anywhere. Two players who underperformed this year were Kyle Palmieiri and Anthony Beauvillier, but Palmieri’s full no-trade clause means he isn’t really an option and Beauvillier is still one of the team’s youngest top-nine forwards and is signed at a lower cap hit, meaning he’s likely to be safe. All other forwards on the team then make below a $2.5 million cap hit, so dealing any of them away really wouldn’t create much space anyways.
This leaves Josh Bailey, with no trade protection, as the team’s most likely player to be moved. While he won’t bring back any sort of major return at this point, given that he’ll also be 33 years old by the start of the season and has two years left on his contract, the Islanders could potentially still bring back a pick.
Of course, dealing Bailey should still be contingent on actually using that cap space elsewhere. We’ve seen Devon Toews, Jordan Eberle and Nick Leddy all leave due to cap issues but no impact players actually added to replace them. The Islanders desperately need a top forward who can score and if the Islanders are able to move Bailey, they should have the cap space to do it.
I also think moving both Bailey and Varlamov isn’t completely unrealistic, if the team has a plan to acquire a top forward and a top-four defenseman. While actually managing to acquire top players is an entirely different problem, Bailey is the most likely skater on the team to be dealt.
OTHER ARTICLES FROM JUNE
Ilya Sorokin's play confirms trading Semyon Varlamov would be right move
Islanders face dilemma on whether to trade 13th overall pick