The roster the Islanders had to submit to the NHL on Tuesday will likely not make it to Thursday’s season opener against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The initial 23-player roster and four-man taxi squad, plus forward Michael Dal Colle on injured reserve, was released on Wednesday shortly after the Islanders completed their final training camp practice.
Kieffer Bellows was listed on the taxi squad while fellow rookie wing Oliver Wahlstrom was included on the main roster. However, based on Wednesday’s line drills, Bellows appears poised to be in the opening-night lineup on Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s line with burly left wing Ross Johnston.
"I don’t think that, either one of them, there has been any final decision," Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "We’ll find out tomorrow. We have all players available. Players on a taxi squad and players on the roster that you receive today are eligible to travel with us and eligible to play."
The roster construction was designed to give the Islanders the most flexibility possible under the flat $81.5 million salary cap. Which is why Leo Komarov, who carries a cap hit of $3 million, is on the initial roster after clearing waivers on Wednesday but will likely be moved to the taxi squad.
Mathew Barzal’s newly-signed, three-year, $21 million deal helped push the Islanders over the cap ceiling. But with Johnny Boychuk placed on long-term injured reserve as he is unable to continue his career because of an eye injury, the Islanders could exceed the cap ceiling by his $6 million cap figure.
CapFriendly.com has projected the Islanders will use $5,838,334 of their LTIR allowance with Komarov’s cap hit included. That’s important because it makes the Islanders accruable cap space limit — which becomes their adjusted cap ceiling for the season — $81.34 million, as close as they could get to the league’s $81.5 million ceiling.
"I think the way our roster is compiled and set up is the best we could ask for," Lamoriello said. "There were players on waivers that we feel are going to be very valuable but we also knew that they would clear because of their salary and also the restrictions on other teams as far as their salary caps."
The roster is currently comprised of 13 forwards, plus Dal Colle, with Wahlstrom the only newcomer. Andrew Ladd, who has three seasons remaining on a his seven-year, $38.5 million deal, has cleared waivers and is ticketed for the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.
The Islanders have until next Wednesday to make a final decision on assignments for the 38 players on the training camp roster.
The Islanders will carry eight defensemen to start, including extras Thomas Hickey and Sebastian Aho. Lamoriello has tried to deal Komarov, Hickey and Ladd.
Semyon Varlamov and highly-touted Russian rookie Ilya Sorokin are the goalies.
Bellows, fellow forwards Austin Czarnik and Otto Koivula and goalie Jakub Skarek comprise the taxi squad. However, Lamoriello said a contract with ex-Devils starter Cory Schneider, expected to be one-year, $700,000, will be finalized in the next day or two. Schneider will join the taxi squad.
So for now this is the roster as the Islanders seek to improve upon last season’s performance as they advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1993 before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Lightning in six games.
"What we want to do right now," Lamoriello said, "is just simply compete against ourselves to be the best we can be and ask each one of our players to just come each and every night and understand and accept their role and collectively allow the end result to take care of itself."