A roster crunch has been a long time coming for the New York Islanders. It began today with veterans Thomas Hickey and Richard Panik hitting waivers, but it isn’t over. Even if Hickey and Panik clear waivers and are reassigned to the AHL, the Islanders still have 25 players on the roster and that does not include unsigned RFA forward Kieffer Bellows or tryout defenseman Erik Gustafsson. With the deadline to have 23-man rosters set for the start of the season arriving on Monday evening, time is running out for New York to make some difficult calls.
Unsurprisingly, The Athletic’s Arthur Staple reports that GM Lou Lamoriello is “looking for landing spots” for the Islanders’ “extra guys.” The team already took a risk by exposing experienced blue liner Hickey, more attractive to opposing teams in the final year of his contract, and serviceable forward Panik, yet those were the easier of their decisions. In order to trim their roster to 23, including Bellows, another forward like Leo Komarov or Ross Johnston would also have to miss the final cut. Otherwise, the team may need to look at moving Bellows instead. If Gustafsson is making the team, that is one more roster spot that would need to open up, potentially making Sebastian Aho available.
Lamoriello knows that none of these players are likely to clear waivers. The problem could be that other teams know this as well. The Islanders could be hard pressed to find a fair deal when their potential trade partners know that the alternative could be to wait the team out and acquire the players for free. Time is running out; New York is on the clock.