It wasn’t that long ago that attracting or retaining free agents was difficult for the Islanders.
Now, after three straight trips to the playoffs and two straight trips to the NHL final four and with UBS Arena at Belmont Park set to open in November, nobody wants to leave.
"There was no doubt," Casey Cizikas said. "Long Island is my home and it will always be home. There was nowhere else I wanted to be. I want to retire an Islander, that’s my goal. That’s something that I’m going to be really proud of when that day comes."
The Islanders officially announced on Wednesday that Cizikas and fellow unrestricted free agent Kyle Palmieri along with restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier and goalie Ilya Sorokin had all agreed to deals.
All were presumed to be returning with neither of the UFAs signing elsewhere once the free agent market opened on July 28 and neither RFA filing for arbitration. But president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, perhaps to maintain salary-cap flexibility, had delayed filing the contracts with the NHL.
Zach Parise also has a contract — almost certainly a modest, short-term deal — with the Islanders reportedly waiting to be filed with the league after the Wild bought out of the final four seasons of his 13-year, $98 million deal. Parise confirmed to The Athletic in Minnesota on Wednesday he agreed to terms with the Islanders earlier this offseason.
Training camp opens in two weeks and the Islanders begin their season with a 13-game road trip starting at Carolina on Oct. 14. Their home opener will be Nov. 20 against the Flames.
"It wasn’t really stressful," Beauvillier said. "I knew it was going to get done. I think Lou did a great job just keeping everyone together and keeping the same core. I’m very excited to be here long term. There’s nowhere else I’d rather play and I feel like there’s unfinished business in the past couple years that we haven’t really accomplished our goal."
Cizikas, the identity-setting, fourth-line center, agreed to a six-year deal with an annual average value of $2.5 million. It’s a fair deal for both sides as Cizikas receives long-term security at a team-friendly price.
Beauvillier agreed to a three-year deal with an AAV of $4.15 million. It’s not the long-term deal Lamoriello likely tried to accomplish but it does keep Beauvillier from becoming a UFA for one extra year.
Sorokin will also be kept off the UFA market for one extra year after agreeing to a three-year, $12 million deal following his strong rookie season.
Palmieri, acquired from the Devils along with fellow UFA Travis Zajac on April 7, agreed to a four-year, $20 million deal.
"It came together relatively quickly," Palmieri said. "I had a good feeling it was going to work out here."
Palmieri is originally from Smithtown and still has family on Long Island but spent the bulk of his childhood in northern New Jersey.
"I’m incredibly fortunate to have a situation like this," Palmieri said. "Not a lot of guys get the opportunity to play in their hometown for any period of time during their career and I’ve had a good chunk. I’m just really looking forward to the future."
The signings — not including Parise’s unannounced deal — leave the Islanders approximately $3.7 million over the $81.5 million salary-cap ceiling. However, Johnny Boychuk can again be placed on long-term injured reserve, which will allow the Islanders to exceed the cap ceiling by $6 million.
That should be enough room to also re-sign Zajac.
Top-pair defenseman Adam Pelech, who had filed for arbitration as an RFA, agreed to an eight-year, $46 million deal on Aug. 6.
So, while Lamoriello has now officially accomplished the bulk of his offseason to-do list, the Islanders could still use another left-shooting defenseman after trading Nick Leddy to the Red Wings on July 16 for cap purposes.