It was fitting that the clock struck 12 Saturday afternoon, signaling the start of NHL free agency, just as the Islanders prospect camp was wrapping up with a full scrimmage.
As the names and deals ticked off the wire, Islanders general manager Garth Snow made it clear with his inaction that a few of the young players at Northwell Health Ice Center will get a chance to crack the lineup when the Islanders convene for training camp in September.
It was not a marquee free-agent class by any means, though the Islanders did have interest in veteran forward Justin Williams. That interest didn’t extend to an offer anywhere in the vicinity of the $9-million over two years Williams got from the Hurricanes, so the Isles were quickly out of the recognizable-name stage of free agency Saturday.
The only deals the Islanders made were designed to shore up their Bridgeport farm team. They dealt AHL forward Carter Verhaeghe to the Lightning for 24-year-old goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis, who will likely team with Christopher Gibson in Bridgeport to provide depth support to the presumed NHL tandem of Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak.
The Isles signed former Devils defensemen Seth Helgeson, a 26-year-old who has 50 NHL games under his belt. They also re-upped defenseman Kane Lafranchise, who played for the Sound Tigers last season.
Barring any further moves among the forwards, there appears room for Josh Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier to earn regular roles next season. All got a taste of NHL life last year, but after wrapping the week of prospect camp Saturday, all three are eager to return in two months for the real thing.
“It’s a little different pace, obviously, being at this camp versus playing in the AHL or NHL. Sometimes I’m out on a break and I see I’m all alone,” Ho-Sang said. “But there’s value in getting out on the ice every chance you get. I tried to really be unselfish this week, feed guys and build their confidence, just try to be a leader.”
Barzal has had dazzling camps each of his two times with the Isles since he was the 16th pick in 2015, but only had two quiet games early last season to show for it before being sent back to the Western League.
“I think maybe both camps, as it got closer to the season, I was guilty of trying to do too much, just getting away from what I’m good at,” Barzal said. “I just want to show what I can do and I feel pretty confident in my game.”
So the kids broke for home Saturday and the Islanders sat out the frenzy. A few of those kids now have a more open door to contributing when the Islanders get things started again in the fall.
Notes & Quotes: Scott Eansor, who was Barzal’s teammate in Seattle the past three seasons, earned an AHL deal after a strong showing this week . . . Another camper who opened a few eyes was Manhasset’s Ryan Hitchcock, who will captain Yale’s team for his upcoming senior year.