With the much-hyped opening day of NHL free agency underway, the New York Islanders did not go gently into that good night. Turns out, they didn’t really go, period.
When it comes to NHL free agency, I’m not a “DO SOMETHING” kind of fan, and I never have been — it’s classically the day when the biggest Ladd-ish mistakes are made. There are very few elite free agents who ever come available, and consequently there are very few teams/GMs who ever actually land them. (And even when they do...what is the rate of regret three, four years in?)
So I wasn’t shouting at the screen or the keyboard all day as each NHL free agent chose one of 30 other teams. (Officially, the Islanders and Predators were the only teams not to make a signing.) Watching Twitter and the reactions of friends (admittedly I was distracted by Real Job work, and comfortable in the belief that no Islanders news was imminent), I felt like I might be the only Islanders fan who was completely unmoved by the fact they accomplished nothing.
Why so numb, though? Why so meh? Upon reflection, I think my reaction wasn’t from a philosophical/strategic view of what the Islanders should do. And it wasn’t from a “I told you so” position where I just knew they wouldn’t do anything.
It was resignation at where they are.
The Islanders, over each of the last three offseasons, have been in a salary cap and flexibility cul-de-sac of their own making. So when Lou Lamoriello said he was looking to make “hockey trades” this offseason, I took that as a tacit admission that the roster is full of signed (and largely aging) players, thus there’s not much wiggle room unless they dump more players for scraps (Devon Toews) or essentially pay another team to take them (Nick Leddy, Andrew Ladd) yet again.
Perhaps it was even a realization by the organization that they can’t keep saying “we have a Hall of Fame coach, we’ll just lean on an Andy Greene or Zdeno Chara and a brilliant culture of clean haircuts and no facial hair.” And, naturally, Lou would prefer a “hockey trade” — i.e. an exchange of assets of arguably equivalent value — rather than another pay-your-way-out deal.
The summer is young, but the list of available free agents is almost completely incinerated. After striking out on Johnny Gaudreau — and I have no idea how he was going to pull that off and make non-destructive moves to get back under the cap — maybe Lou yet pulls a trade out of his hat. (J.T. Miller? Vladimir Tarasenko?) But chances are, if such a low-chance thing happens, the cost will be high. They will continue punting bills down the road for a massive rebuild reckoning to come.
This is where the Islanders are as they double down on their aging core yet swing and miss when trying to supplement it. Oh well, there’s still time...
None. There was no Islanders news. But there were opinions and stuff. Thousands of opinions.
- On Lou’s options: “A whole bunch of Plan B’s are already gone.” [Athletic]
- Where do the Isles go from here? [Post]
- No but really, is Plan B
Palator Kessel or something? [Newsday]
- “I should know better.” Mike and Dan promised a free agency edition of the Islanders Anxiety podcast, the larger the signing the sooner the recording. Or as it turned out, the larger the missed signing. Come for the shared anxiety, stay for at least getting to mock the Leafs and TSN’s terrible, horrible, no-good very-bad idea of entertainment. [LHH]
- I could not keep up with the massive free agency thread yesterday, but I know at 1,200 comments the thread gets bogged down, so here was a fresh one for evening ranting. [LHH]
- No shock that the Day 1 free agency losers included the Islanders (and Devils!). [Athletic]
- Definitely fitting that the main story on the Isles home page was about golfing. [Isles]
“Unrest” is strategically unspecific and broad, but it’s a vibe, anyway:
There is unrest on the Island. Very interested to see how the #Isles pivot from here. Clear they have money to spend. Lamoriello is now in the final year of his contract - can't close the big UFAs. With a new, gorgeous barn, contending for a Cup is that much more important.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 14, 2022
This guy apparently finds himself sporting and funny when trolling Isles fans, so it was funny to see him whiiiiiiif on this take:
I was going to try to list some of the top free agent deals but my goodness there were a lot (except for the Islanders). So here’s a running list by team. [NHL]
And here are some remaining free agents. [NHL]
Alright, but here’s a few who did sign:
Hearing Ondrej Palat's five-year deal with the #NJDevils is expected to carry a $6M AAV.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 14, 2022
Some details are still being finalized, though.
- Johnny Gaudreau is really going to Columbus. [NHL | Jackets Cannon]
- Of course the Jackets also signed Erik Gudbranson for 4x4 (tee hee). [Cannon]
- Ryan Strome gets 5x5 from the Ducks. [NHL]
- Jaroslav Halak returns to New York...as a backup for the Rangers. [Post]
- Speaking of former Isles, both Nick Leddy (4x4) and Thomas Greiss end up with the Blues.
- Elsewhere in goaltending, the Leafs are going for the “open competition” approach. [NHL]
- The Hurricanes added Brent Burns (with salary retention) and Max Pacioretty for basically nothing. [Canes Country]
- In truly shocking good fortune considering they dumped both of their goalies and totally didn’t tamper, the Capitals managed to land the top goalie target in Darcy Kuemper. [Japers’ Rink]