Here is a list of the Islanders’ appearances in the Stanley Cup Final since the advent of modern, unrestricted NHL free agency in 1995:
Umm . . . oops, sorry, there aren’t any, now that I think about it.
There are many reasons for that, of course. But one is that on balance free agency has not been the Islanders’ friend.
Certainly, some good players have come to Long Island for good money over the decades, and more good players have stayed on the Island for good money.
But historically, there was not much to lure stars to a modest franchise with an unimpressive arena, an unimpressive practice facility and unimpressive finances.
All of which made the signing of Bo Horvat the other day such big news.
In the short term, it was what might be GM Lou Lamoriello’s last, big bet on his veteran core, finally adding an elite scorer to jumpstart a playoff push.
Things were trending in the right direction as Horvat prepared to make his home debut against the Kraken on Tuesday night.
The Islanders had won three games in a row, even if all three victories featured only two goals, a total they had not surpassed in 13 of the past 14 games.
But the longer-term implications are more interesting.
The fact that Horvat was up for signing an eight-year contract extension worth a reported $68 million said a lot about how the Islanders are viewed these days.
Yes, money talks. It always does. Horvat needed to know he was wanted where it counts most.
But he was under no obligation to stay beyond the end of this season and could have commanded similar money elsewhere.
He decided to stay, and immediately was paired with Mathew Barzal, another in-his-prime star who signed an eight-year deal worth $73.2 million that kicks in next season.
Both contracts are set to expire at the end of 2030-31.
So, to review, the Islanders’ top two skaters are a guy who decided to come and a guy who decided to stay.
For some franchises, that would not be a big deal.
For the Islanders, it is a dividend of the stable ownership, strong culture, modern practice facility and state-of-the-art home arena that have been lacking in the past.
The Islanders’ two midweek opponents drive home the point.
Some fans used to fear Barzal would bolt to Seattle when he got a chance, having grown up in the Pacific Northwest and starred for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League.
Then the Canucks are in town on Thursday. Barzal grew up near Vancouver, and Horvat just got traded away from there. Now both will try to beat them.
After signing Horvat, Lamoriello said of the contract, “All I can tell you is it’s too long and it’s too much money.”
But he knows the deal. It is the cost of doing business in the NHL. The key thing is that he got someone to take the money who on paper is an excellent fit.
“My wife and I talked about this place a lot,” Horvat said after signing. “This place was probably in my top five from the beginning just from what I heard about the team, the organization.
“I don’t know the area too well. But I can’t wait to get to know it for eight years.”
Top five! Something seems to have changed here. The Islanders could not keep John Tavares and did not land Artemi Panarin, Johnny Gaudreau or Nazem Kadri as free agents.
Now this. It has been a jolt of midseason excitement for Islanders fans, but who knows where it will lead? They might not win a Cup for another 40 years.
But the aggressive, decisive move on Horvat sent a message to the rest of the NHL — and players seem willing to listen.