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Islanders' opening roster becomes a bit clearer

Islanders left wing Ross Johnston skates during a

Islanders left wing Ross Johnston skates during a hockey scrimmage game at Training Camp at Northwell Health Ice Center on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The Islanders’ opening night roster became a lot clearer on Monday. It apparently will heavily feature familiar faces, and some promising prospects may have to bide their time, if potentially only for the short term.

The season opener is Thursday night against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden and the initial roster must be submitted to the NHL by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Forwards Andrew Ladd, Tanner Fritz, Cole Bardreau, Austin Czarnik and A.J. Greer and defensemen Thomas Hickey and Parker Wotherspoon were placed on waivers in order to make them eligible to be reassigned to either the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport or the team’s four-to-six-player taxi squad.

Forwards Josh Ho-Sang and Mason Jobst cleared waivers on Monday and now can be reassigned.

Waiver-eligible forwards Leo Komarov, Michael Dal Colle and Ross Johnston were not placed on waivers, making it almost certain that they will be on the initial roster. Two of those three could start the season on center Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s third line.

Casey Cizikas’ status also is unclear after he appeared to hurt his left hand or lower left arm and was forced to leave Sunday’s scrimmage at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. Coach Barry Trotz did not have an update Sunday and the Islanders were off Monday.

If the invaluable fourth-line center is unavailable Thursday, Komarov, one of Trotz’s most trusted penalty-killers, likely will play between Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck.

That means there likely won’t be room on the initial roster for prospects Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows or Otto Koivula, who have had strong camps, according to Trotz.

President and general manager Lou Lamoriello has been trying to clear space, both against the $81.5 million salary cap and on the roster, by shopping Komarov, Hickey and Ladd, but he has found no takers.

Most likely, Hickey and Sebastian Aho, who also is waiver-eligible, will be the extra defensemen.

The Islanders are expected to place defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who announced in late November that he is unable to continue his career because of an eye injury, on long-term injured reserve Tuesday.

That will allow them to exceed the cap ceiling by the $6 million annual average value of Boychuk’s contract during the season.

Teams can exceed the cap ceiling by 10% until Tuesday. Saturday’s re-signing of restricted free agent Mathew Barzal to a three-year, $21 million deal placed the Islanders at $84.6 million.

That figure doesn’t include not-yet-announced deals for Martin (four years, $6 million), defenseman Andy Greene (one year, $700,000), goalie Cory Schneider and forward Dmytro Timashov.

No deal has been officially announced for Timashov, an RFA acquired from the Red Wings who also is waiver-eligible. However, Timashov participated in the early portion of training camp, making it likely he either will be included in the Islanders’ initial roster or placed on injured reserve.

Tom Kuhnhackl, who spent the previous two seasons with the Islanders, was listed on their 38-player training camp roster but remains unsigned and has yet to practice with the team.

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