Johnny Hockey is taking his talents to...Columbus?
That was the harsh reality Wednesday night for the Islanders and president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, who seemingly concentrated on signing marquee playmaker Johnny Gaudreau after the free-agent market opened at noon.
Gaudreau, who turns 29 on Aug. 13 and set career highs with 40 goals and 75 assists last season for the Flames, agreed to a seven-year, $68.25 million deal with the Blue Jackets after the Islanders and Devils had appeared to be the front-runners for his services. Gaudreau became an unrestricted free agent after reportedly turning down an eight-year, $84 million deal from Calgary, where he played his first nine NHL seasons.
The Islanders are believed to have offered Gaudreau a seven-year, $63 million deal. The Devils’ final offer is believed to be more lucrative than the Blue Jackets’.
Neither Lamoriello nor Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald addressed the media on Wednesday and the Islanders wound up acquiring no players on a busy Wednesday around the NHL.
Originally from Salem, New Jersey, Gaudreau was seemingly interested in returning East. The Flyers, his favorite team growing up, could not clear the necessary salary cap space and GM Chuck Fletcher said Wednesday afternoon his team was never in on Gaudreau.
Of course, this is not the first time Lamoriello has missed out on a desperately-needed elite scorer as the Islanders’ boss. He actually made a better offer than the Rangers for Artemi Panarin in 2019 but the Breadman had his sights set on Broadway.
Now, it will be interesting to see what Lamoriello has as a Plan B.
Many UFAs signed quickly on Wednesday but there are still a couple of goal-scoring options available.
Two-time Stanley Cup winner Ondrej Palat, 31, who had 18 goals and 31 assists last season for the Lightning as he completed a five-year, $26.5 million deal, remained unsigned. So did six-time 30-goal scorer Phil Kessel, who turns 35 on Oct. 2 and had eight goals and 44 assists for the Coyotes last season.
Or, Lamoriello could look to trade for a goal scorer. The Canucks have dangled J.T. Miller, 29, who set career highs with 32 goals and 67 assists last season for the Canucks and is entering the final season of a five-year, $26.25 million deal.
And can the Blue Jackets also afford to keep restricted free agent sniper Patrik Laine, 24, who had 26 goals and 30 assists last season on a one-year, $7.5 million deal?
The Islanders did lose UFA forward Austin Czarnik, who played 15 games for them the past two seasons, to the Red Wings.
The Islanders’ other UFAs – goalie Cory Schneider, forward Michael Dal Colle and defensemen Zdeno Chara, Andy Greene, Thomas Hickey, Mitch Vande Sompel and Paul LaDue – remained unsigned.
Chara, 45, and Greene, 39, have not yet decided whether they want to play next season and Dal Colle, the fifth overall pick in 2014 who has played 112 games for the Islanders, became a UFA after he was not extended a qualifying offer as an RFA.
Forward Kieffer Bellows and defenseman Noah Dobson are the Islanders’ RFAs along with minor-leaguers Arnaud Durandeau and Parker Wotherspoon. The Islanders have exclusive negotiating rights with defenseman Alexander Romanov, acquired from the Canadiens for the 13th pick in last week’s draft.
It may take anywhere from $6 million-$9 million to re-sign Dobson and Romanov and fit them under the cap.
There’s also Mathew Barzal to consider. He is entering the final season of a three-year, $21 million deal and can be an arbitration-eligible RFA next offseason.
The Islanders have approximately $12 million in space under the $82.5 million cap.