Being a veteran doesn’t alleviate the nerves that come with reporting to training camp. Even veterans for a team that has been to back-to-back NHL semifinals and carries Stanley Cup-or-bust aspirations into this season.
The Islanders opened training camp on Wednesday with physicals and team meetings, and the first on-ice sessions will be Thursday at Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow. The six-game preseason starts on Sunday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and the regular season begins Oct. 14 at Carolina.
"That never leaves you," Josh Bailey told Newsday on Wednesday about training camp butterflies. "The day it leaves you will probably be the day you’re done. There’s always that excitement and that anxious energy, looking forward to getting back on the ice. There’s always something to prove. Guys are always coming up, looking good, and trying to take your spots."
"I think we’re all excited," Cal Clutterbuck told Newsday. "The disappointment of losing out last year sits there with you for a little while and then it turns to a little bit of a fire and excitement that usually comes about on Day 1 and the first week here."
Still, neither Bailey or Clutterbuck likely need to worry about earning a roster spot.
President and general manager Lou Lamoriello said on Tuesday it’s pretty easy to project the top 12 forwards, and both Bailey and Clutterbuck are core players.
Bailey, 31, is in the fourth season of a six-year, $30 million deal, and Lamoriello chose to protect him in this offseason’s expansion draft. Instead, the Seattle Kraken selected Jordan Eberle. Bailey said Lamoriello kept him informed through the whole process.
"We had some good conversations," Bailey said. "At the end of the day, I’m right where I want to be. It’s great to be back. This has been home for a long time and, hopefully, for a lot longer."
Clutterbuck, meanwhile, is not focused on his long-term future with the Islanders, only trying to win a Cup this season after being eliminated twice in a row by the eventual champion Lightning.
Clutterbuck, 33, is entering the final season of a five-year, $17.5 million deal. But both of his longtime linemates have been given multiyear deals the past two offseasons. Matt Martin, 32, is entering the second season of a four-year, $6 million deal and Casey Cizikas, 30, agreed to a six-year, $15 million extension this offseason.
"We’re just happy Casey’s back," Clutterbuck said. "The three of us have been together for so long. When there’s a chance that one of us could potentially not be here, when the dust settles and the season is over and you’re faced with that reality, it can get real quick. But I think the desire was always for Casey to stay. Just happy he was able to get a deal."
But Clutterbuck is not assuming that deals for Martin and Cizikas mean a new contract for him will be a mere formality.
"Not necessarily," Clutterbuck said. "I’m really just focused on the season itself. I really want to pay my attention to try to win a Stanley Cup. I find it better for me and the guys to just focus on one day at a time. That’s something that’s a long way out. I haven’t given it much thought. Hopefully, we can go out there and do what we do and have a great year and win a Stanley Cup and we’ll deal with that when the time comes."