I’ve been kind of glib about the Islanders not really having training camp decisions because, after the signings of Zach Parise and Zdeno Chara, they seemed to have their desired opening night lineup set after the departures of Jordan Eberle and Nick Leddy. Barry Trotz even said he already had his top 12 “pretty much set.”
But it is true there is more to it than that, especially with a PTO veteran like Erik Gustafsson, a European pro-tested prospect like Robin Salo, the Leddy trade-fodder Richard Panik, and the inextinguishable Nine Lives of Leo Komarov in the picture.
Last year the Islanders comfortably waived Komarov (multiple times) because of course no one was claiming that contract on waivers. This year they should still go to that well when they look to navigate their way past the 23-man opening roster bouncer.
But Oliver Wahlstrom, who we would normally assume is in line to take a regular spot after his growth last season, is said to be having a weaker camp and (more importantly, in this context) is still waivers-exempt. Wahlstrom finished the playoffs on the sideline, replaced by Komarov after Wahlstrom’s fairly scary injury, but got a look on the line with Zach Parise and J-G Pageau on Saturday. Matt Martin has been recovering from ankle surgery and could conceivably start on IR; Ross Johnston could step in there on the Identity Line.
So are there decisions left? Sure, but they can be characterized more as roster-maneuvering rather than merit-based decisions. If they want to squeeze more guys on to the opening roster, they may loan Wahlstrom to Bridgeport and give Panik a spot. They may be high on Salo but he’s waivers-exempt, too, so if they want to give Gustafsson a veteran deal for depth then you can see how that plays out.
Such qualifies as theater in preseason. The next open lab is Tuesday vs. the Flyers in Bridgeport.
- Takeaways from the OT loss vs. the Devils: PK strong, Ilya Sorokin settling in, line three chemistry, etc. [Isles]
- Zach Parise is acclimating well next to J-G Pageau. (But who doesn’t?) [Newsday | NYI Hockey Now]
- From Friday: Who will nab the final opening roster spots? [Athletic]
- Lots of key Islanders spent time in Bridgeport before making the leap, so they’re appreciating these three games in the updated arena of the Isles’ AHL affiliate. [Isles]
- After 18 months with little hockey and without fans in the building, the preseason games represent a celebration for Bridgeport. [CT Post]
- Is this real life? Another goalie tandem ranking puts the Isles at the top. [Score]
- (Yester)day in Isles History: 2001, Michael Peca named captain. [Isles]
- A little more on readiness — and ice! — of the new arena. [Isles]
- Ranking 12 major sports venues in the area: “Lemme tell you something about Yankee Stadium!” yada yada... [Post]
- What roster spots are in play for Tuesday’s opponent, the Flyers? [Athletic]
- Unvaccinated Josh Archibald is the second Edmonton player to have myocarditis after contracting COVID-19. Goaltender Alex Stalock is expected to miss this entire season after facing the same. [Copper n Blue | CBC | Score]
- Key Canucks RFAs Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson have agreed to terms. [NHL]
- Robin Lehner hurled some more fire at the league and PA on Twitter, so now the league is trying to broker a discussion. [ESPN | CBC | TSN]
- Rival news: Nicklas Backstrom has not skated yet in camp and there is no timetable for his return from hip surgery. [Sportsnet]
- Rival news, II: The Hurricanes are a darling, but they’ll have to manage some pretty major roster turnover from the offseason. [NHL]
- Craig Button talks to Chris Botta about his time as a GM and his second career as a broadcaster. [Hockey Press Pass podcast]
- I don’t know why teams were asked to submit three names for their Olympic team now but Team Canada had some obvious ones in McDavid, Crosby, Pietrangelo. [TSN]
- Dave Tippett called the Oilers “red rotten” and warns they better not try to get by on skill alone again. [Sportsnet]