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Which of the Islanders’ UFAs will return next season?

June 8, 2023, 8:26 PM ET [78 Comments]
Ben Shelley
New York Islanders Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Follow me on Twitter: @Hockey_Comps
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After a pretty slow month following the New York Islanders’ playoff elimination, things have picked up a bit for the club.

Former NHL COO John Collins is now set to handle the business side of the team's operations. Anders Lee was also named as a finalist for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy, for exemplifying leadership qualities on an off the ice. Meanwhile, the Islanders signed 2021 fifth-round pick Eetu Liukas to an entry-level contract as well.

But most notably, Lou Lamoriello had a media availability on Tuesday, heading into the NHL offseason.

At the availability, Lou Lamoriello noted re-signing his current unrestricted free agents as a priority. With a lack of cap space though and a few players in need of new deals, it’s difficult to tell whether bringing everyone back is possible, or even ideal.

To kick of our Islanders’ offseason coverage, we’ll look at New York’s four notable UFAs and try to evaluate how much of a priority it is to re-sign each player.


Acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline, Engvall worked out pretty alright for the Islanders. He ended up taking on a top-six role and posted five goals and nine points in 18 regular season games.

While Engvall was a good fit though, the Islanders do need to be careful not to continue clogging up their cap situation with middle-six forwards. Engvall shouldn’t be counted on for a top-six role over the next few years and his offensive ceiling is probably about 20 goals and 40 points, at most.

If there’s no better option for the price and the Islanders can keep Engvall, then by all means, it can work. He’s still only 27 years old and has good speed for a player his size, even if he doesn’t provide the physical impact you’d maybe expect from someone who’s 6-foot-5. But of the four UFAs, I’d put Engvall lower on the list of priorities. If they can’t bring him back at a reasonable price and term, they'd be able to find a different middle-six winger – or better yet, find a way to bring in another legitimate top-six winger.

VERDICT: Re-sign if the contract makes sense and they can’t upgrade


To me, re-signing Mayfield should be the top free agent priority for New York.

He took on a larger role than ever this year, averaging 21 minutes per game. While we can count on Adam Pelech to lead the way, along with Ryan Pulock, losing Mayfield without a replacement means Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov, still just in their early 20s, are going to be counted on for even more.

New York’s defense group has been one of their strengths for a long time, but losing Mayfield would be a big hit. Looking around at other free agents available, it’s also going to be difficult to replace Mayfield if he isn’t brought back.

VERDICT: Re-sign


Parise has been exactly what he was brought in to be: a cheap, middle-six option.

You never question his work ethic and even at 38 years old, he was arguably often more effective than many other players within the forward group. Parise was also able to add quite a bit of offense this year, scoring 21 goals and 34 points.

Bringing Parise back on his third straight league minimum cap hit deal (with a $1.5M AAV to factor in bonuses) would be a win for New York. He can provide a lot of value for his price, but it does seem like it’s now in Parise’s hands as to whether he’ll re-sign or retire.

VERDICT: Re-sign, but it’s probably in the player's hands


I think Varlamov is underrated in terms of what he’s still able to do.

You can look at him as a 35-year-old goalie who only played 23 games last year and just see a typical backup goalie. But more than anything, this was just the result of the other goalie on the team being one of the league’s best netminders.

Varlamov is a goalie who can still probably play 35-40 games and split time as part of a tandem. He’s consistently posted higher than a .910 save percentage since joining the Islanders, and there are undoubtedly teams who could use him as more than a backup goalie.

Having two capable goalies has been a luxury for the team for the last several years, whether it was Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, or Greiss and Varlamov, or now Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin. But Sorokin has left no doubts that he can have success while taking on a large workload of up to 60 games per year.

Of course, it would be great to bring Varlamov back. But the Islanders probably only need a backup goalie to play about 20 games per year, and especially considering their cap situation, it makes sense to cheap out a bit on a backup in order to spend the money elsewhere.

VERDICT: Let him walk based on how much he’ll make on his next deal

Honourable mention: Parker Wotherspoon is set to become a UFA as well, based on a lack of games played by 25 years old. He was decent for the team in his 12 games this year, and it could be worthwhile to bring him back.


On a side note: For anyone interested, over the last while, I’ve been working on a small project to project contract extensions for this year’s group of free agents. Any UFAs or RFAs with more than 10 NHL games played this year are getting a projection, with an article being released for the Top 50 free agents to give a more detailed breakdown of each projection.

Most of the players designated as a Top-50 Free Agent don’t have a projection released yet, and 2-3 will be posted each day throughout June, leading up to free agency on July 1. However, most UFAs and RFAs do have a projection already available.

For the Islanders, projections are out for Pierre Engvall and Zach Parise, along with RFAs Oliver Wahlstrom and Samuel Bolduc.

I’ve also already released an in-depth article on what Scott Mayfield’s next contract could look like, as one of this summer’s Top 50 Free Agents, which can be found here:

ARTICLE: Projecting Scott Mayfield’s next contract

A projection for Semyon Varlamov will be out later this month as well.

The project can be found at HockeyComparables.com and I’ll be sharing projection articles on Twitter as they’re posted, using @Hockey_Comps

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More from Ben Shelley
» Which spots in the Islanders’ lineup are up for grabs?
» What are expectations for the Islanders after a quiet offseason?
» Islanders re-sign Oliver Wahlstrom
» Islanders miss out on Alex DeBrincat, must look for other upgrades
» Islanders re-sign Sorokin, Mayfield, Engvall and Varlamov