The offseason priorities are clear for the Islanders, as are their needs. How president and general manager Lou Lamoriello accomplishes them should be known soon.
The free agent market opens Wednesday at noon and the Islanders have $17.6 million in space under the flat $81.5 million salary-cap ceiling. Lamoriello has prioritized re-signing key restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier, defenseman Adam Pelech and goalie Ilya Sorokin. He also must replace second-pair defenseman Nick Leddy, traded to the Red Wings for cap purposes, and top-line right wing Jordan Eberle, selected in the expansion draft by the Seattle Kraken.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Lamoriello also re-signs top unrestricted free agents Casey Cizikas and Kyle Palmieri. Re-signing Travis Zajac, acquired with Palmieri from the Devils on April 7, is a strong possibility if Cizikas signs elsewhere.
"Right now, we’re trying to get ourselves focused on the people that we have and, at the same time, trying to do some of the things in making us better," Lamoriello said on Saturday after the NHL entry draft. "Also, some of our younger players have to be given those opportunities to come forward and take some of those spots. Wherever we can get better, we certainly will. There will be no hesitation in that. We have to look at the big picture as far as where the contracts are and where they’re coming up in the cap world."
The Islanders have been linked to top-line playmaker Gabriel Landeskog if the Avalanche’s captain reaches the free agent market. But Lamoriello would have to clear out other contracts – Leo Komarov and/or Thomas Hickey? – to accommodate Landeskog, who may command around $9 million per season. Landeskog’s current teammate Brandon Saad, completing a six-year, $36 million deal, may make more sense, especially if Palmieri is not re-signed.
The Islanders also have been linked to Vladimir Tarasenko if the Blues trade their disgruntled sharpshooter, who has essentially lost two seasons to shoulder issues and carries an annual $7.5 million cap charge through 2023. Beauvillier might be a piece the Blues ask for as part of any package for Tarasenko.
And ever since the Wild bought out the final four seasons of Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter’s twin, 13-year, $98 million deals, both have been linked to the Islanders. Suter played for coach Barry Trotz with the Predators and Lamoriello drafted Parise with the Devils.
But defenseman Vince Dunn, plucked from the Blues by the Kraken in the expansion draft, might make more sense as a replacement for Leddy if Seattle can be convinced to trade the RFA.
UFA defenseman Mike Reilly, who split last season between the Senators and Bruins, would also be a good fit.
F Zach Parise (Wild) – A reunion with Lou Lamoriello almost seems inevitable with the Wild buying out Parise, who could work on the third line and the power play.
D Mike Reilly (Bruins) – The left-shooting Reilly could slip into Nick Leddy’s role on the second pair and on the power play at a much cheaper price.