This expansion draft is a whole new ballgame for Islanders from first one in 2017

The day of the expansion draft has finally arrived. For the first time since 2017, when the Vegas Golden Knights were entering the league, several big names will leave their respective clubs to fill out the inaugural Seattle Kraken roster.

It should be a stressful day with plenty of intense moments in both the lead-up and when the selection are finally made. And these next 12 hours might just be that for the Islanders. Why?

Well, the last time the expansion draft had any significant meaning to them, the organization was completely different. They had just missed the playoffs for the first time in two years, Garth Snow was still running the team, and their roster wasn’t as deep as it is today. All you need to do is go look at Snow’s protection list, and you’ll realize how much has changed.

Snow also had made the bold decision to swing a deal with Vegas — which included Mikhail Grabovski, prospect Jake Bischoff (who?), a 2017 1st-rounder and 2019-second rounder — for them to stay away from d-man Adam Pelech.

At the time Pelech wasn’t even considered anything valuable, but has since become one of the best defenders in the league. That deal remains one of the two last salvos of Snow’s reign upstairs.

But back then there was never a feeling then the Isles had a chance to lose someone that could really hurt them. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

There is a nervousness among many that they could very well lose Josh Bailey. The longest-tenured forward on the Isles’ roster was surprisingly left unprotected when the team’s list was revealed this past Sunday. He along with Jordan Eberle — the player many are hoping/expecting the Kraken to take — have been acknowledged as primary candidates.

Reports from this morning indicated that the Kraken would be going with Eberle over Bailey, but that can only be confirmed once the draft happens tonight. Still, possibly losing either player will hurt.

Both have played a huge role in the Isles’ turnaround the past few seasons, which has resulted in back-to-back conference final/semifinal appearances.

Bailey is close to playing 1,000 games with the franchise and is already on some of the all-time lists among players who have worn the blue and orange. He is also one of the most-respected leaders in the locker room and someone head coach Barry Trotz has praised overwhelmingly since he took over behind the bench.

The Isles being a good team now means they have players who are attractive to be taken away. Times have definitely changed from where they were at this point from the previous expansion draft.

New York Islanders: Expectations for Michael Dal Colle

Michael Dal Colle, New york Islanders

The New York Islanders took Michael Dal Colle with the 5th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Dal Colle absolutely ripped up the OHL. He even put up 93 points the year he was drafted. There’s an old expression to explain Dal Colle’s current play, “life comes at you fast.”

It’s safe to say Michael Dal Colle is a complete bust and will never pan out to be the top 5 pick that the Islanders thought he was. But, this doesn’t mean he can’t serve a big purpose on the team. What are the expectations for Michael Dal Colle during the 2020-2021 season?

Become a Top 9 Forward

Michael Dal Colle should have a few goals in mind this year, but this one is the biggest for him. Dal Colle must beat out Leo Komarov or Andrew Ladd for the final forward spot. Every Islander fan knows there are just two forward spots up for grabs this year.

One is the left-wing on the third line, and the other one is the right-wing on the third line. I assume Kieffer Bellows or Oliver Wahlstrom will take the right-wing spot. This leaves the left-wing spot in play for anyone to take it. Dal Colle must take this spot, it will boost his career momentum a ton.

Join the PK Unit

Everyone knows that Dal Colle only still has a spot because of his defensive play. This fact just makes it stranger that Dal Colle isn’t on the penalty kill. I don’t know if it’s the fact that Barry Trotz just doesn’t trust him enough or that there are millions of better players than him. But, this should be one of Dal Colle’s major goals this season. He needs to join the penalty kill unit. If he can prove his worth on this unit, he can surely make another team when his contract ends.

New York Islanders sign Ryan Pulock to extension

Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders

As stated many times, the New York Islanders are strapped for cap space. But, the Islanders finally struck a deal with one of their big-name free agents. Ryan Pulock has been re-signed after what seems like years of anticipation.

Pulock was heading to his arbitration date on Friday. I know Lamoriello is thanking his stars that he struck a deal before this court hearing. Lou Lamoriello worked his magic once again, and it helps the Isles a lot.

Length

This contract is not a long term deal, but no one expected it to be. Bridge deals were the only things that could keep Pulock/Barzal on the Island. This deal is only 2 years long, but it’s smart. This locks up Pulock until Nick Leddy’s, and Johnny Boychuk’s contracts are up. Then Pulock can get the big money that he deserves, but that’s in another two years. Pulock has another two years to put up even more points and even more hits to earn a longer deal. I believe he will earn 5-6 years when his next deal is ready. Ryan Pulock is the guy on the Island, and he will be paid like one in 2 years.

Money

I estimated Ryan Pulock to be awarded $6.5 million a year. Lou Lamoriello has pushed that contract value down to just $5 million. This is why Lamoriello is still a top general manager in the league, he signed a top 20 defenseman for just $5 million. This leaves about $4 million left over for Barzal, but there’s about $14 million left to be awarded because of NHL rules. Lou Lamoriello has done it again, and he’s made Islander fans happy once again.

New York Islanders preparing Anthony Beauvillier for expanded role in 2021

 Anthony Beauvillier , New York Islanders

Entering the 2020 playoffs, the New York Islanders had the oldest team out of all 24 participating clubs. Averaging 28.9 years of age, the Islanders are looking to get younger in 2021, as they continue to develop some of their youth prospects and elevate some 3rd and 4th line players.

One player that excel during the 2020 campaign was Anthony Beauvillier, scoring 39 points and 68 games. He was one of the Islanders’ top rising players last season, and it is expected that he will take a more prominent role moving forward. Some believe that he could be paired with Brock Nelson on the second line, but there’s a decent chance he makes it all the way to the top line in his fourth season as an NHL player.

HOT ARTICLE: Is Mike Hoffman waiting out for the Island to come calling? 

How valuable is Beauvillier to the New York Islanders?

Now, Beauvillier is on the final year of a two-year deal, counting $2.1 million against the salary cap. While Lou Lamoriello has his focus elsewhere, he should be considering extending his rising forward beyond the 2021 season. That is the big question, should they extend him now or wait until after next year to make a move?

That obviously comes with its own risks, as he may elect to take his talents elsewhere.

The best part about Beauvillier is that he hasn’t yet reached his peak, and the Islanders must realize that and act accordingly. At just $2.1 million, scoring 39 points in an abbreviated season is fantastic. He’s just 23 years old, meaning he is more than five years younger than the average age of the team this past season. His estimated worth is about $3.5 million per season, so getting him at a $1.3 million discount for 2021 is stellar.

Finding a price point between $3.5 million and $2.1 million is ideal, but I highly doubt Lou will be so proactive as to sign him to an extension already. The more likely scenario is that he waits until next season when the NHL cap increases with a regular campaign under their belts. The loss of revenue due to COVID-19 has forced teams to be cash strapped, so allowing players to play out the rest of their contracts makes sense.

Brock Nelson beginning to heat up at the right time is a great thing for the Islanders

New York Islanders, Brock Nelson

The New York Islanders’ offense has seen its fair share of big performances in their playoff run thus far.

Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey, J.G. Pageau, among several others, have stepped it up, and its a reason the Isles are one win away from the Eastern Conference Finals.

Then there’s Brock Nelson.

Nelson, who has six goals and 11 points in 14 games, has struggled a bit to find the back of the net consistently, is now starting to convert on more of his chances.

And for the Isles, that couldn’t be coming at a more crucial time.

Nelson now has three goals in the last two games, including his snipe late in the third period yesterday over Flyers’ netminder Carter Hart’s glove, which started another third-period comeback.

He almost made it back-to-back multi-goal games in overtime but was stoned by Hart.

“I’d like to have the breakaway back, Toews thought his squeaked through, and [we] had a couple of other looks,” Nelson said postgame. “That’s hockey.”

As the Isles continue to go deeper into the postseason, Nelson is the kind of player who they should expect a lot from.

He showed he’s capable of finding that extra gear from his performance in the playoffs last spring. Nelson tallied four goals in eight games.

But there’s even more to his impact.

Nelson identifies as one of the Islanders’ most prominent secondary scoring threats; his six goals in the playoffs is third on the club, and he’s tallied 51 tucks the last two seasons. Nelson’s also been one of the club’s better forwards for the better part of two years now and someone they rely on for heavy minutes and in the big moments as the second-line center behind Mathew Barzal. Plus, with the heavy-powered Tampa Bay Lightning looming next round — depending on if the Islanders can close out their series tomorrow night — having Nelson going could help make a huge difference if the games do become high-scoring affairs.

It’s not to say the team offensively would be in trouble without Nelson not producing — they’ve gotten contributions from throughout the forward corps since entering the bubble — but he showing that goal-scoring prowess makes the Isles that much more dangerous of a club.

So he hitting his stride now could pay huge dividends.

The Islanders have gotten to this point in the playoffs because of their offense. Brock Nelson has had his moments, but now it seems like the goals are starting to come for him on a more consistent basis.

It’s a great thing for him and even better for the Islanders who are as close to playing for the Stanley Cup as they’ve been in decades.

J.G. Pageau has quickly become a huge fan favorite among Islanders fans

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Islanders

When the New York Islanders traded for J.G. Pageau back at the February trade deadline, there was a general feeling among the team’s fan base he was going to be a welcomed addition.

Pageau was going to be that missing link. That third-line center, the team had been lacking all season. That two-way player can be put in any situation. And that impact guy in the bottom-six.

But I’m not sure anyone could have imagined just six months later just how much Pageau has embraced being a member of the organization and how much Isles fans have come to adore him so far.

This qualifying series has truly become Pageau’s coming out party.

Now sure, he did have his “welcome to the Islanders” moment in his first game against the Rangers, where he scored his first goal and fought Jacob Trouba after he leveled Michael Dal Colle. But these first two games against the Panthers, Pageau has been everything the organization envisioned he would be.

The first game on Saturday — a 2-1 Isles win — witnessed the Ottawa native score the opening goal of the series for the Isles and be a menace in the faceoff circle, winning 80% of the draws he took.

After the victory, Pageau was quoted saying, “I feel very lucky to be a part of this family. I really feel like this is a brotherhood, and to be a part of it, I feel very lucky.”

If that wasn’t enough for fans to fall in love with him, what he did Tuesday in the team’s 4-2 win in game two over the Florida Panthers might have been what took it over the top. Pageau would again add to his growing legend with another memorable moment.

As the second period wound down and the Islanders up by two, there was a scrum that took place after the play while the Panthers were on the power play. Right in the middle of it was Pageau. And who was he going at it with? None other than 6’7 Brian Boyle.

When the fracas began to break up, there was a 5’10 Pageau was staring down Boyle. Out of nowhere, Pageau made the hilarious notion of fake wanting to fight him, trying to get the big man to flinch. Boyle didn’t flinch, but he did retaliate to Pageau, who could be seen laughing. Even the Isles broadcasters on MSG — Brendan Burke and Butch Goring — couldn’t help but chuckle as they saw on the replay some of Pageau’s antics.

Meanwhile, the clip of him clowning Boyle spread like wildfire on social media, and Isles fans went bananas for it.

They loved every second of it. And why not? Pageau getting into the head of Boyle — who has been a nemesis for the organization over the years from his time with the Rangers, Lightning, and Devils — was exactly the kind of mental warfare you want to see.

Pageau, even in his short time with the franchise, has really brought another dynamic to this Islanders. It’s one that hopefully will continue deep into the postseason and for the foreseeable future. Signed for the next six years, he’s already showed some of the fruits of labor to his teammates, head coach Barry Trotz, and g.m. Lou Lamoriello. Most of all, though, he’s already become a big favorite amongst the Islanders faithful.

And that means he’s gained their admiration and respect.

The fourth line just continuing to do their job will allow the Islanders to have success

New York Islanders, Islanders

While the second and third lines got most of the recognition for the New York Islanders’ Game One victory on Saturday, it was the team’s fourth line also got the job done in a more subtle fashion.

The line consisting of Casey Cizikas, who returned to game action for the first time since he suffered a leg laceration resulting from being cut by a skate, Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin were back to their ways of creating havoc in the offensive zone.

Neither of the three got on the stat sheet, but they were damn sure effective every time they stepped on the ice. Cizikas won 46% of his faceoffs and saw 14:56 of ice time; Clutterbuck had 14:28; Martin 11:46. The trio though, did play the physical game recording seven total hits — Martin and Clutterbuck 3 each and Cizikas 1 — and sacrificed the body when needed.

Clutterbuck had a team-high three blocked shots along with defensemen Devon Toews.

It was nice to see all three guys on the ice again being difference makers. For the Isles to take a stranglehold on the series today, they’ll need a repeat of that performance of what they did in game one. Maybe, even getting a little more physical too.

The Panthers offense, which was stymied by the Isles’ defense in the opening contest, are no doubt going to come harder out of the gate today being it’s basically a do-or-die situation. So that line throwing the body around more could definitely set the tone once again and get Florida’s forwards off their game. Establishing that heavy forecheck too, just like we saw in the first game, would also be a big help and take some of the pressure off the other three lines while doing the deed of tiring out an inexperienced Panthers defense.

It’s clear how much more the entire team was in sync when the fourth line is going. The Isles no doubt missed elements all three players brought when one or two of them were injured at different times during the regular season. They were finally back together on Saturday, and they did exactly what they’re known for doing.

The Islanders are going to need a few things to happen if they want to find themselves of 2-0 heading into tomorrow. Mostly it’s more from the first line and sticking to their disciplined game.

But their fourth line? They don’t need to change a thing.

They just need to play their game, and the team will have success.

In simpler terms, what that really means is just doing their job

New York Islanders: Trade Options for Nick Leddy

New York Islanders, Nick Leddy

The New York Islanders traded for Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy in 2014. The package was Nick Leddy for Ville Pokka, T.J. Brennan, and Anders Nilsson. Safe to say that the Islanders won this trade. The Islanders then resigned Leddy to a seven-year deal worth $38.5 million in 2015. Leddy has served the Isles well for five years now, but it could be time to get rid of his ginormous contract. Arthur Staple has recently stated that the Devils, Sabres, and Red Wings are all pursuing Leddy. The price starts with at least a 2nd round pick and another piece. Let’s review these options.

New Jersey Devils

The Devils are an up-and-coming team, and by up-and-coming, I mean they’re at the bottom of the league, but they’re young. The Devils need talent, and Leddy isn’t the bell of the ball, but he’s better than what they have. I see the deal as being Nick Leddy for Nick Merkley, a 2nd round pick and a 5th round pick. It’s not the most appealing package for the Isles, but the Devils have nothing to offer.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres continue their trend of being the best team in the league until December. The Sabres do have younger prospects, but no salary cap space. I can see the Sabres having to give up more of an established forward to obtain Leddy. I don’t believe the Sabres could get the deal done without giving up a key piece of their team due to their cap issues. Leddy isn’t a cheap contract by any means, and that means teams will have to lose good players to get him.

Detroit Red Wings

This is the worst team in the league without a doubt; there’s nothing that anybody can say that will reverse this fact. The Wings also have zero to no guys to trade away right now. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say they trade away Robby Fabri and a 4th round pick for Nick Leddy. The WIngs don’t have cap space and have to resign key players like Anthony Mantha, so taking Fabri off their hands will be good for all. The Isles get a 3rd line winger for Pageau, and the Red Wings cry themselves to sleep thinking about Alexis Lafreniere.

Adam Pelech looked like he didn’t miss a beat for the Islanders last night

Adam Pelech, New York Islanders

Adam Pelech had waited a long time to get on the ice in an actual game for the New York Islanders.

Almost to the day six months ago, Pelech had torn his Achilles tendon while playing soccer pregame before the Isles were set to play the New Jersey Devils. The injury he suffered was supposed to force him to sit out for the rest of the season until the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the world. That shutdown provided him with a possible chance at coming back.

Pelech, who rehabbed for months and was a full participant in the club’s Phase 3 training camp, made his highly-anticipated return last night in the Islanders’ only tune-up game before they begin their qualifying round matchup with the Florida Panthers Saturday afternoon.

The Isles were victorious 2-1 over the Rangers, and it was Pelech who looked like he hadn’t missed a beat.

“He looked just like him,” said teammate Andy Greene following the win.

Last night marked Greene’s first time playing with Pelech after he’d spent multiple years on a rival Devils squad.

“Playing against him for the last little bit here, you wouldn’t have known that was his first game in seven or eight months. He’s just steady back there. Really poised and just makes everything look easy.”

Pelech was paired back with his usual d-partner Ryan Pulock and showed exactly why he’s such a vital factor if the Isles are going to go far this summer. He played the sec shut down the Blueshirts’ Artemi Panarin similar to the same way he did the Pittsburgh Penguins’ stars last spring.

Panarin didn’t record a shot in over 22 minutes of ice time.

Credit is due to the entire D for that, but it was Pelech who saw the most of the Russian all evening. 

Pelech is sure to get the same dose of heavy lifting against the Panthers top guns — Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Mike Hoffman — but all indications from last night prove he’s ready for that challenge.

“He looked pretty set for the playoffs, which is a really good sign for us,” head coach Barry Trotz told reporters via Zoom.

The Islanders got back to playing “Islander Hockey” with the help of Pelech being back in the lineup, which is a great sign moving forward. The playoffs are about low scoring, defensive style game. That fits right into the Isles’ wheelhouse. Pelech provides that much-needed presence with how he plays, and his impact is undeniable.

“Adam is appreciated in our market of what he does. When he went down, he left a pretty big hole in our lineup. He looked pretty seamless jumping in there,” Trotz added.

Pelech and the Isles are now on to Florida and their chase for the Stanley Cup. Last night looked like he didn’t miss a beat. And that’s exactly what anyone could have hoped for after such a long layoff.

Now let’s see what he has in store for an encore.

Three things to watch for in the Islanders’ exhibition game tonight

Adam Pelech, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders are playing a hockey game tonight.

Let me repeat: THE NEW YORK ISLANDERS ARE PLAYING A HOCKEY GAME TONIGHT.

After 139 days and a two-week training camp, the Isles are set to square off with the New York Rangers in their penultimate contest before they start their qualifying round series against the Florida Panthers this Saturday.

Barry Trotz’s squad has been itching to finally get some real competition after spending the last couple weeks doing intrasquad scrimmages. Now they’ll get their chance.

“I think everybody just wants to play a real game,” Matt Martin told reporters on Monday. To play an exhibition game, a little bit of a tuneup game before the real thing starts will be a good thing for everyone’s timing. The speed of the game and then obviously the physicality of the game, because it is a physical game out there.

Trotz still has some decisions to make regarding his lineup. Who will be starting in goal in game one between Semyon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss? Who will be the fifth and six d-men? Trotz acknowledged yesterday that 95% of the lineup playing tonight will be the same for the opening game this weekend. But he didn’t elaborate, and as we know, one or both of those slots on the blueline remained open for a majority of camp. And what will the second and third lines look like with both the first and fourth line already intact?

All of those things could be answered by the time the buzzer sounds this evening.

But beyond that, there are a few other aspects to keep an eye on just a few days before the real games begin.

Adam Pelech’s Return.

While the argument can be made, his teammates haven’t played a game in four months, Pelech hasn’t seen actual game action since January.

Now he did have time on the ice while he was rehabbing from a torn Achilles tendon? Yes. But that isn’t the same as playing a game. Pelech did receive a ton of praise from Trotz early on in camp, even to a degree in which Trotz said he was making his teammates look “ordinary.”

It will be interesting to see if Pelech shows warts in his game from such a long layoff or if he looks like he didn’t miss a beat and is still the team’s best d-man. Also, the chemistry he has with his d-partner Ryan Pulock: Will it be evident right off the hop, or will it take a little time to get back?

Special Teams.

It was noted that the Isles spent a lot of time last week working on special teams before they made it to Toronto on Sunday. So tonight could be a first glimpse at what they might have in store for the series against Florida.

Hopefully, one of those glimpses is at a more aggressive power play.

The Isles had one of the worst power plays all season — 24th out of 31 teams — with much of it contributed to not drawing enough penalties. But it’s also because they weren’t the aggressor; not shooting the puck enough, too much overthinking, etc. This game is the perfect opportunity to show they will be in attack mode man-up and not trying to be too cute — which they are notorious for — in the postseason.

The penalty kill getting back a healthy Casey Cizikas should be fun to watch again. When he went down, that aspect of the Isles’ game took a hit.

The First Line picking up right where they left off.

Trotz made it crystal clear early on in camp that his first line — comprised of Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, and Jordan Eberle — wasn’t going to be altered. It was the right call after how they looked before all the chaos of the pandemic took place.

That trio was carrying the bulk of the offense for close to a month leading up to the break, particularly Mathew Barzal. Barzal had 11 points in nine games leading up to the league shutting down; Eberle and Lee weren’t far behind, as they too were producing at a good rate.

If all the reports from training camp are true, the threesome looks ready to have a big impact in the play-in round. Barzal did score in each of the three scrimmages during the club’s first week of camp while Lee and Eberle both had strong showings as well.

That line is going to have to be at its best if the Islanders are gonna go on a run this summer.

Tonight will tell us a bit about what we should expect from them going forward.

A few other notes heading into Wednesday night:

-Ilya Sorokin finally took to the ice in an Islander uniform. The team tweeted out a picture Tuesday night of he sporting the orange in blue in practice earlier that day. Oh, and his new mask? A beauty. Very intrigued to see the full thing.

-Jon Ledecky saying on Andrew Gross’s Island Ice podcast he is “one thousand percent” confident the Islanders will play the 2020-21 season at Nassau Coliseum was very refreshing to hear. Ledecky had kept quiet on the situation after all the news about the Coliseum’s future being in doubt happened a month ago. So it was nice to hear from him as well as Oak View CEO Tim Leiweke, who is all-in on making the Isles last season be at the Coliseum come to fruition.

-Exhibition game or not, I’d expect a lot of intensity from both teams tonight. And yeah, it might not matter in the long run, but it would be nice to see the Islanders get back in the win column after not having been victorious in seven games when the season was stopped. Just getting that feeling again could be a nice add on to the team being jacked up for this weekend.