Barry Trotz: The hard truth is some of these islanders won’t be around next season
TAMPA, Fla – Barry Trotz spoke an NHL truth when he noted that the devastated group of players in the locker room following the Islanders’ 1-0 loss to the Lightning on Friday night in Game 7 of their halftime series. finals at Amalie Arena will not be the group that opens training camp in September.
The annual change is a part of life in the NHL, especially under a strict salary cap. And very especially true under a fixed salary cap of $ 81.5 million which is a lingering effect of the COVID-19-induced financial ruin the league has endured without fans in arenas for much of this season.
So the offseason question becomes, how many players are leaving and how drastically is the roster reshaped? Keep in mind that this is a franchise that had the same core of players prior to the Lou Lamoriello / Trotz era, even with John Tavares leaving for the Maple Leafs via free agency in 2018.
“It’s just a lot of pain because they gave it their all,” Trotz said after the Islanders were knocked out by the Lightning one lap from their first place in the Stanley Cup Final since 1984 for a second straight season. . “There are guys who play who are beaten, exhausted, injured and they keep going. There is a bond between all the players that is really strong.
“What is disappointing is that we did not have this game and this group in this hall will not be together anymore,” added Trotz. “It’s just the lay of the land in the National Hockey League. It’s all the pain. They’re not going to be defined by this game, win or lose. They are going to be defined by every game.”
There is no reason to think the Islanders will no longer be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender next season, when they move into the $ 1.2 billion UBS Arena in Belmont Park and finally get home. modern they needed since – conservatively – the 1990s.
But free agency and the expansion plan – along with all the trade Lamoriello may or may not pull off – is going to reshape the list.
Among the major players, Casey Cizikas is of immediate concern.
The spark plug’s fourth row center, which defines identity, is an impending unrestricted free agent. He turned 30 in February and just signed a five-year, $ 16.75 million contract. He will undoubtedly be sought after if he achieves free agent status (he appears to be the perfect type of energetic, energetic player that new Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury is looking to infuse into his skill-rich roster. ).
Lamoriello has to weigh another multi-year commitment to the Cizikas and how that fits into the Islanders’ salary structure versus the ever-present desire of NHL teams to get younger and faster.
A quartet of former Devils – Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac, defenseman Andy Greene and third-place goaltender Cory Schneider – will all be UFAs. The last three will likely all play somewhere next season on one-year contracts, unless Greene, who turns 39 in October, calls it a career. But Palmieri, 30, from Smithtown, will be one of the main targets ahead in the free agent market after a five-year, $ 23.25 million contract.
Acquired due to captain Anders Lee’s right anterior cruciate ligament injury, which ended the season on March 11, Palmieri appeared to be a good candidate for the physical and defensively responsible hockey brand of Lamoriello and Trotz. And there was no doubt that Palmieri felt right at home on Long Island, where he still has family.
But succeeding in re-signing Palmieri would mean cutting wages elsewhere.
Lamoriello will have to decide which Islanders to display at the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft, scheduled for July 21.
The Kraken will select an Islanders player, who can protect either seven forwards, three defenders and a goalie, or eight skaters and a goalie.
Re-signing Palmieri would apparently become a lot more realistic if, say, Jordan Eberle, who still has three seasons on a five-year, $ 27.5 million contract, made it to Seattle.
One player who’s not going anywhere but whose next contract will determine who else the Islanders can and can’t afford is goaltender Ilya Sorokin. The five-time KHL star’s highly anticipated debut resulted in a 13-6-3 record with a 2.17 goals-against average and .918 save percentage, as well as four first-round wins over the Penguins .
He will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights at the end of a one-year, $ 2 million contract and it would not be surprising if his claim is much closer to Semyon Varlamov’s $ 5 million cap. .