Josh Bailey was part of the first phase of the Islanders' major rebuilding project, spending the last five years with the team. With the Islanders on the upswing, he's hoping for five years of prosperity.
Bailey agreed to terms on a five-year, $16.5-million deal Monday, just the latest homegrown Islander to lock in on a long-term contract.
He joins Travis Hamonic (seven years, $27 million) and recently acquired Cal Clutterbuck (four years, $11 million) as restricted free agents whom the Islanders have signed to multiyear deals in the past 10 days. They join John Tavares, Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen, who are signed well beyond this season.
"We're all such good friends, it's a tight group . . . It's something I want to be a part of," Bailey told Newsday. "I want to see it through. We all want to keep getting better and want to find ourselves where Chicago was last month, raising the Cup with the same guys who were here when we were struggling a bit."
Bailey, who was the ninth overall pick in the 2008 draft, came on at the end of last season, finishing with 11 goals and eight assists in 38 games. He had three assists in the playoffs, playing primarily on the left side with Tavares.
Just as he did with several of the other Isles signed long term, Isles general manager Garth Snow bought up three years of potential unrestricted free agency in the Bailey deal, seeking to keep the core of this Islanders team together for as long as possible.
"I'm obviously very thankful to Charles [Wang] and Garth, as well as Cappy [Jack Capuano], Doug [Weight] and Tommer [Brent Thompson], the whole coaching staff, for continuing to believe in me," Bailey said. "We made a good step last year. I'm excited to get started as soon as we can."
The Islanders have 20 players on one-way contracts for the 2013-14 season, seemingly indicating that the bulk of their offseason moves have been made. The only unsigned restricted free agent is defenseman Thomas Hickey, who certainly will be back.
There still are some unsigned veterans who could interest the Isles, but only on Snow's terms, so the only additions to the current group likely will come closer to the start of training camp, which opens Sept. 11.
Prospects such as Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome could vie for spots, and that would make the Isles even younger. Of the 20 players on one-way deals, only four are over 30, and that includes enforcer Eric Boulton, who won't play a regular role.
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