Lou Lamoriello stocked up on fourth-line talent over the summer. The new general manager signed players on the decline (Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula), brought back a fan favorite (Matt Martin) and made a curious extension (Ross Johnston).
When you add returning players Cal Clutterbuck, Casey Cizikas, Tanner Fritz, and how can I forget, the Tom Kuhnhackl signing, you have almost have a full compliment of forwards competing for fourth-line roster spots.
The Islanders seem to have a type. pic.twitter.com/4b6IEuotCV— Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell) July 2, 2018
I’m going to assume that the Lamoriello and new head coach Barry Trotz are not going to start the season like the previous regime has in the past, having just six defensemen on the rosters. They are certainly not going to have three goaltenders on the roster. Seven defensemen and two goaltenders make nine, leaving two roster spots devoted to forwards.
Who is Safe
Clutterbuck and Cizikas will have there rightful spots on the fourth line. Komarov and his shining new four-year deal are cemented here. Komarov, and Filppula, will likely play third-line minutes, therefore blocking a Josh Ho-Sang.
The “Mayor of Long Island”, Martin, returns after two years with Lamoriello in Toronto. A reunion with Cizikas and Clutterbuck is likely, if only on a part-time basis.
If I did my math correctly, and there’s no guarantee about that, it leaves one roster spot open for an additional forward.
Who Should Be Worried
Contracts usually dictate roster spots, usually. Lamoriello made a curious decision extending forward Ross Johnston for four years. The one-way deal means that Tom Wilson’s nightmare doesn’t head to Bridgeport. Let’s hold off on that. The 6’5” forward would have to clear waivers in order to play in the AHL. His deal, even though it’s four million total, would likely scare off teams. If a team takes a flyer on him, Isles save the money.
Perhaps second to just Sergei Krivokrasov, Tom Kuhnhackl has the best name in the last 25 years. The former Penguin signed a one-year deal with the Isles after not getting qualified by the Pens. Besides the cool name, I don’t see any value in his signing, especially with the Komarov and Filppula signings. He can easily be waived.
After having an all-star first half for the Sound Tigers, Tanner Fritz made his NHL debut in January. The undrafted Ohio State forward had to fight for everything in his professional career. The hard work earned him a two-year, two-way deal. John Tavares’ former linemate can be sent to Bridgeport without waivers. If the Islanders are afraid to lose a player via waivers, Fritz will likely be returned to Bridgeport.
Even with the likelihood of Fritz and Kuhnhackl heading to Bridgeport, Barry Trotz will still have six fourth-line forwards on the roster.