With a couple of more moves to injured reserve and a couple more assignments to AHL Bridgeport, the New York Islanders have officially set their 23-man opening night roster for 2014-15.
As became increasingly expected the last few days, promising forward Anders Lee is not on it.
Both Lee and Ryan Pulock were assigned to Bridgeport (where Aaron Ness was named captain today) to complete the final moves.
Newsday's Arthur Staple, who said he could sense frustration from Lee, made a good point about whom, exactly, stood in his way on the roster:
If it is Lee who goes, it's hard to say Boulton or McDonald took his spot... Young guy isn't going to stick around as a spare part.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 7, 2014
Eric Boulton and Colin McDonald are expected to be the scratched healthy forwards on opening night; if the Isles aren't playing Lee in the top 12, they don't want him sitting in the press box.
The point of debate then becomes what role Lee could fill -- and whose job he should take -- among the 12 spots expected for opening night. The Islanders like their banging fourth line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck, though there are good arguments that the former two should be candidates for a scratch.
With depth comes the allure of dressing four truly "plus" lines rather than a fourth line assigned with limited minutes and the traditional role of softening the opponent up with hits.
A segment of fans also targets Josh Bailey, the subject of occasional trade rumors -- or trade wishes -- because his contract is lengthy and somewhat pricey for a team suddenly just $5 million under the salary cap. But if the Islanders wanted to dress their truly most talented 12, both Bailey and Lee would probably be on it.
But opening rosters are a matter of roles, injuries, player development -- and waivers.
In his Newsday filing, Staple quoted coach Jack Capuanoo on the Lee situation: "That's a tough one. He's had a pretty good camp. Anders is going to be an Islander for a long time... It's a numbers game."
Lee's opportunity will come again. Possibly soon. But will it be as an emergency fill-in? Or will it be when the Islanders, suddenly awash in depth and injury insurance, see a fourth line that cannot meet the other lines' standard with the ol' "110 percent" every night?
Injuries, the Reason for Depth
There was a certain waiver-friendly convenience to some of the injuries that occurred during training camp, as only summer signing Jack Skille became a waiver-claim casualty of the roster culling process. To fit under the maximum, the Islanders added four more to injured reserve the last couple of days:
Matt Carkner was placed on injured reserve (back) retroactive to Sept. 22. Lubomir Visnovsky was placed on injured reserve (back) retroactive to Sept. 29.
Michael Grabner was placed on injured reserve (lower body), retroactive to Sept. 26. Calvin de Haan was placed on injured reserve (lower body), retroactive to Sept 23.
Visnovsky and de Haan in particular mean the existing seven defensemen should have competition again very soon.
Grabner is apparently "not close" to returning according to Staple, so these could be the forwards the Isles have for a while. Potential underperformers and common Islanders' fan scapegoats have a roster reprieve. For now.
2014-15 Season-Opening New York Islanders Roster
- Josh Bailey
- Eric Boulton
- Casey Cizikas
- Cal Clutterbuck
- Cory Conacher
- Michael Grabner (IR)
- Mikhail Grabovski
- Nikolay Kulemin
- Matt Martin
- Colin McDonald
- Brock Nelson
- Frans Nielsen
- Kyle Okposo
- Ryan Strome
- John Tavares
- Johnny Boychuk
- Matt Carkner (IR)
- Calvin de Haan (IR)
- Matt Donovan
- Travis Hamonic
- Thomas Hickey
- Nick Leddy
- Griffin Reinhart
- Brian Strait
- Lubomir Visnovsky (IR)
- Jaroslav Halak
- Chad Johnson