Josh Bailey of the Islanders skates during the third period against...

Josh Bailey of the Islanders skates during the third period against the Sabres at UBS Arena on March 25. Credit: Jim McIsaac

TAMPA, Fla. — Josh Bailey has not been part of the Islanders’ immediate plans, instead being a consistent healthy scratch. That certainly leads to a bigger-picture question as to whether the longest-tenured Islander has a future within the organization.

Bailey, as solid a dressing room and community citizen as possible, has long been a lightning rod for social media discontent over his cerebral play as turnovers or backchecking failures or inconsistent offensive production are highlighted while his positive contributions are minimized. Perhaps it’s long-held residue from sky-high expectations as the ninth overall pick in 2008 as he jumped directly from junior hockey to the NHL at 19.

It's unfortunate because Bailey, the person and the player, deserves more credit for what he’s meant to the Islanders.

“Yeah, it's a tough stretch for him,” Kyle Palmieri said. “But I think when you look at it over 1,000 games for the franchise, what he means to the fans, to the community, I think that’s something you can’t really judge a guy by a stretch of 15, 20, whatever it is, games that maybe he’s not playing to his abilities.”

Bailey, 33, had been out of the lineup for six of the previous seven games and a healthy scratch for 10 games total entering Saturday night’s road match against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Certainly Hudson Fasching and, for now, Simon Holmstrom, have moved ahead of Bailey in the pecking order.

That has left him stuck on 1,055 career games, five shy of matching Hall of Famer Denis Potvin for the second most in franchise history.

“Over 1,000 games for one franchise,” longtime teammate Matt Martin said. “Some big-time moments in the playoffs. Set a record for assists a few years back in a playoff year [18 in 22 postseason games in 2020]. Just the ultimate professional the entire time. You can imagine it’s a difficult situation. But the season is not over and I have all belief in the world in him and the type of player that he is and his ability to be impactful when we need him.”

Bailey has one season remaining on a six-year, $30 million deal and while nobody in the organization has even whispered this possibility, it’s no stretch to think president/general manager Lou Lamoriello might consider a buyout if Bailey continues to remain out of the lineup.

The salary-cap ceiling is only expected to rise by $1 million to $83.5 million next season when the Islanders have approximately $76.5 million committed to 18 players. Goalie Semyon Varlamov, Fasching, fellow forwards Pierre Engvall and Zach Parise and defenseman Scott Mayfield are all pending unrestricted free agents.

Per, buying out Bailey would save the Islanders $2.3 million against the cap next season but cost them $1.2 million in 2024-25, when the cap ceiling is expected to rise more significantly.

But nothing is determined. Bailey, who had eight goals and 17 assists in 62 games this season, still may have a chance to add to his Islanders’ legacy.

“We all know how it goes: You get down the stretch here with an injury,” Palmieri said. “He’s a guy that we’d be confident in coming in and playing his game. He’s a big part of our team, whether or not he’s in the lineup.”

‘Big moment’

Ilya Sorokin made 25 saves in Wednesday night’s 2-1 road shootout win over the Washington Capitals. That included holding fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin without a point on one shot.

“When I was a kid, I watched Ovi,” the 27-year-old Sorokin said. “He was a superstar when I was 10. It’s a big day and a big moment, playing against [Sidney] Crosby, Ovechkin, [Connor] McDavid, the best players in the league. I feel like it’s a challenge, what can I do against those guys?”

From the pod

TNT/NHL Network analyst Darren Pang was a guest on episode 159 of Newsday’s Island Ice podcast after working between the benches for the Islanders’ 2-1 shootout win in Washington on Wednesday night. Pang also called the Islanders’ 7-4 loss to the visiting St. Louis Blues on Dec. 6 when top-pair defenseman Adam Pelech suffered a head injury.

The Islanders went 7-8-5 without Pelech.

“I think there’s no coincidence that the downfall of the team both defensively and offensively was when he went down,” Pang said. “Now you’ve got to ask certain players to step up a little bit and play different minutes and different roles. It doesn’t work, as we all know.

“From ice level, one of the things that I admire about the way they play is just how big their defense is. I’m a big fan of really big. I think you can have one small shrub but you can’t have too many of them. You need big redwood trees and that’s what they’ve got.”

How they fared

The Islanders haven’t clinched a playoff berth just yet but are a near-lock to reach the postseason under first-year coach Lane Lambert, who succeeded the fired Barry Trotz after four seasons as his associate coach. Here’s how other first-year Islanders coaches — not necessarily rookie NHL coaches such as Lambert — fared when they led the team to the playoffs:

Terry Simpson (1987) – Defeated Capitals 4-3, lost to Flyers 4-3

Peter Laviolette (2002) – Lost to Maple Leafs 4-3

Steve Stirling (2004) – Lost to Lightning 4-1

Ted Nolan (2007) – Lost to Sabres 4-1

Barry Trotz (2019) – Defeated Penguins 4-0, lost to Hurricanes 4-0

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months