Yesterday was a doozie around the NHL as free agency opened. Lots of moves, some of them puzzling — and then there was the Lou Lamoriello-managed New York Islanders, whose only surprise was that they announced all their activity, which was focused on keeping what they had. Lou went the opposite direction from a summer ago, actually announcing multiple contracts, rather than keeping them in the drawer all summer just to show he could.
And boy, there were a lot of them, as Lou signed all his guys to really (really, really!) long-term deals to theoretically keep the AAV (relatively) low, although...none of them were that low? Supposedly the cap will shoot up after this season, the last in which it is restrained due to the players having to catch up with pandemic-related lost revenue. So in a few years, it may not matter that Scott Mayfield and Pierre Engvall are signed for an eternity.
But for next season? Everyone* is basically back, and Zach Parise has an open invitation too.
*Yes, “everyone” does not include Josh Bailey, whose trade opened up the room to retain the aforementioned.
- Steve covered the Isles signings. The biggest was Ilya Sorokin, who renews for eight seasons beginning next summer. But Semyon Varlamov (4 years, $11 million at age 35), Mayfield (7 years, $24.5 million) and Engvall (7 years, $21 million) all re-signed too. [LHH]
- Lamoriello wanted to make sure there was no contract-year pressure or distractions for Sorokin. His deal (8 years, $66 million) will keep him as an Islander until 2031, or a couple of years after Rick DiPietro’s buyout is complete. [Post | Newsday]
- Under Lou, the Isles are excellent at media (and blogs, which don’t exist) relations, and they announced all four deals “with a text message at 4:47.” Lou doubled down on his belief that everything begins with goaltending (and it usually does, except sometimes you’re just fine with Adin Hill). And Kevin Kurtz quotes an anonymous source on the Alex DeBrincat dilemma. [Athletic]
- In the end, Josh Bailey’s exit was perfectly appropriate for a quiet, much-maligned but significant Islander. [LHH]
- As it happened: If you want to revisit or see our commentariat reactions to free agency day as it happened, here’s your thread. Remember you can mute commenters who add nothing to your day. (And if you’re a commenter who shoots first, asks questions later...maybe reflect? That’s not aimed at anyone in particular; I just know we all benefit when we pause and consider whether we really need to make the same point for the 34th time.) [LHH]
- Grading the Islanders extensions: Great for Sorokin, head-scratching term for the others. [Athletic]
Meanwhile, some longtime “system” Islanders blueliners found new homes:
Parker Wotherspoon 2 way deal with Boston.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 1, 2023
Kyle Burroughs 3x$1.1M with San Jose— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 1, 2023
When Lou spoke to media he said the rest of his work would be not in free agency but in pursuing “hockey trades.” The Islanders could probably still use help at wing, but can they possibly afford real upgrades?
Believe others reported this earlier on Twitter but am hearing #Isles definitely in on Alex DeBrincat with J-G Pageau possibly headed back to Ottawa if a deal is made.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) July 1, 2023
Sounds like Varlamov's deal is done and Mayfield deal still being worked on.
Anyway, that's what I'm hearing.
- Senators GM Pierre Dorian gave one of those press conferences where he tried very hard, smiling a lot, to show that the team is in control of the DeBrincat situation, as different teams show “varying degrees of interest.” It seems the player’s camp is finding out they can’t get the same term and deal the Senators are offering. And Dorian is pumping DeBrincat’s tires (“lots of posts, lots of goals”) to both inflate his trade value and also maybe convince the guy he should stay. [TSN]
- Old friend Barry Trotz has jettisoned Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen to sign Ryan O’Reilly to a big free agent deal. I LOVE(D) O’Reilly’s game, just like I LOVED Frans Nielsen’s once upon a time, but UFA age is not the age to bet big and long on. [NHL]
- The Rangers are cap-strained too, so they signed a bunch of 30-something forwards (plus Jonathan Quick!) for the league-minimum. Blake Wheeler is surely in the Andrew Ladd phase of his career, difference being he signed for Parise money rather than the premium Snow-Weight threw at Ladd once upon a regretful time. [Post]
- “Maple Leafs lose valuable pieces but add Reaves, Klingberg” is 100% the Taranna-related headline I was looking forward to on this July 1. That is a chef’s kiss and then some. May that franchise forever be as close to a Cup as Neptune is to the sun. Reaves “notes that he and Auston Matthews share a skating coach.” Thank you, Luke Fox Jukebox, you’re the best. [Sportsnet]
- Someone signed with the Coyotes! Under their own free will! Alex Kerfoot. [NHL]
- Tristan Jarry extended for five years with the Penguins. Sorokin, he is not. [NHL]
- The Red Wings are adding lots of bodies, including J.T. Compher for 5 years, $25.5 million (!) [NHL]
- The Senators are “having conversations” with Vladimir Tarasenko. Good luck, guys, you’ll be near-term impressed and then disappointed. [Sportsnet]
- Connor Brown missed most of last season but Connor McDavid wanted him on the Oilers (“I don’t know Connor Brown, but I do know Connor McDavid. And Connor McDavid knows Connor Brown” is a real, not-made-up Ken Holland quote), so he gets a nice minimum deal with four years of term. [Sportsnet]
- Michael Bunting (and Dmitry Orlov) join the Hurricanes. [Sportsnet]
- The Panthers lost Radko Gudas to Anaheim and traded Anthony Duclair to San Jose, but they added a bunch of other guys, including old friend Dmitry Kulikov. [Litter Box Cats]
- Duchene lands with the Stars on a one-year deal for $3 million. [NHL]
- Alex Killorn gives up yearly contention with the Lightning to sign for four years in a Anaheim. [NHL]