The expansion draft has come and gone, and the Islanders didn’t come out of it too worse for the wear.
Jordan Eberle is no longer an Islander after he wound up being the odd man out. He was selected by the Kraken after multiple reports surfaced yesterday morning he was their pick.
The loss of him will sting. The Isles are now down a top-six forward and one of their more valuable skill players.
Eberle did record 169 points in 272 games for the organization — add on to that 34 points in the postseason — and formed fantastic chemistry with star forward Mathew Barzal. The two had been linked together since Barzal’s rookie season when they were paired on the first line following the 31-year-old being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in the offseason in exchange for Ryan Strome.
Eberle being taken did come as a bit of a surprise. There was chatter and speculation — and let me tell you there was plenty among the pundits — leading up to the draft with Kraken plucking Josh Bailey instead of him. Both forwards were left off the Islanders’ protected list on Sunday, with Bailey being a bigger shocker than Eberle.
It was a bit of a gamble on g.m. Lou Lamoriello’s part which obviously paid off, albeit a scary one. Reports came out today that the Kraken were mulling hard between whether to choose Bailey over Eberle and vice versa.
Things might get a lot clearer about whether Lamoriello and Seattle g.m. Ron Francis had agreed to a side deal to maybe steer the Kraken away from Bailey once the roster freeze is over this afternoon.
But the fact of the matter remains, Bailey is still an Islander. And there’s no question, he deserved to still be here if and when the Islanders finally win it all.
— NHL (@NHL) May 25, 2021
I shouldn’t have to tell you how much losing Bailey would have been a slap in the face to not just the player, but the team. Nothing against Eberle, but Bailey’s contributions to the franchise warrant him being here for the long-haul. And they go beyond the ice.
Bailey has been in blue and orange for the past 13 years — he was drafted 9th overall back in 2008 — and has stuck with the organization through all the trials and tribulations. He’s never complained. Never thrown his teammates under the bus. And always lead by example. It’s a reason he wears an “A” on his sweater.
Even when he had a chance to test free agency back in 2018, Bailey took a team-friendly deal to keep him with organization for six more season.
Outside of captain Anders Lee, there might not be a more-respected player in the Islanders’ dressing room the past few years. The 31-year-old might be soft-spoken, but he’s always let his play speak for him. Ask head coach Barry Trotz, who over time has trusted Bailey in any situation. Beyond that, the playoffs have become his time to shine. No Islander forward has had more points in the postseason (39) than Bailey the past three years.
“With Bails, it’s all IQ,” Trotz has said in the past in his praise of the veteran forward. “He’s a cerebral player. He makes really intelligent reads and they’ll be some things, they’re more subtle. You’ve got to watch him closely. If you’re just looking for the wow factor, you probably don’t see that in Josh. What you do see is all the subtleties and sort of the thinking man’s player.”
Losing Bailey would have taken a large chunk out of what has turned the Islanders into the competitive squad they have become. Replacing him would have been a difficult task. Then think about filling that hole with how close the Isles are to within a title. That said, Bailey has earned the right to stick with the franchise till the end and see it all culminate in a Stanley Cup.
Seeing a teammate leave is never an easy thing. It’s a sad day for all involved. Just ask Mathew Barzal.
Barzal, Jordan Eberle’s fellow “Gary” — an inside joke the two teammates came up with that fans caught on to — bid farewell to him on social media in a heartfelt post.