Following a disappointing first season at UBS Arena, the Islanders are looking to rebound in 2022-23. An important step towards doing so is evaluating the roster and letting go of certain players. This will help to answer an essential question being posed to general manager Lou Lamoriello: Do the Islanders need to move on from anyone?
Although there was definitely a lack of scoring in 2021-22, the Islanders should keep their forward core intact. Left-wing Kieffer Bellows is the only restricted free agent (RFA) in this group, whom Lamoriello must re-sign. There are no unrestricted free agent (UFA) forwards on the Islanders’ roster.
In 45 games, Bellows registered 6 goals and 13 assists for 19 points, averaging 11:52 of ice time per game. The 24-year-old will be eager to continue his development as an NHL player under new head coach Lane Lambert.
On the other hand, winger Zach Parise is the oldest forward on the roster, preparing to enter his age-38 season. Parise totaled 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points, playing in all 82 games of the 2021-22 season.
Even though he is getting older, Parise could still inspire some younger skaters, such as rising right-wing Oliver Wahlstrom. The Islanders have signed Parise through 2022-23, which will give the youngsters time to learn from the veteran scorer as they improve as NHL forwards.
Veteran defensemen Zdeno Chára and Andy Greene are both UFAs this offseason. While their experience and leadership have been beneficial, they are not getting any younger. Having them on the roster brings the average age of the Islanders’ defensemen to 30.7 years old; the average age of the entire roster is brought to 29.87, which is first in the NHL.
Chára turned 45 this year and is winding down his career. After over two decades as an NHL defenseman, Chára’s decline was evident in 2021-22. His limited mobility has been prevalent in his game, as he has slowed down in recent years.
Nonetheless, Chára continued to bring physicality on the ice, dishing out 125 hits, his most since 2017-18. Having said that, it is best for the Islanders to move on from Chára. It was nice to see Chára return to the team that drafted him, but it is time for the two sides to part ways.
As for Greene, he will be turning 40 in October. Following his Devils captaincy, Greene was traded to the Islanders in February 2020, appearing in 10 games for his new team before the COVID-19 pause. Over his two full seasons since then, Greene has averaged 40 hits, 112.5 blocked shots, 10 takeaways, and 32 giveaways. Despite his age, Greene can still play a vital role on the team for another season if the two sides agree to a new contract.
In addition, there are two younger defensemen who are entering free agency this offseason: Group 6 UFA Sebastian Aho and RFA Noah Dobson. It is essential for Lamoriello to re-sign both players, as they, along with Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock, will likely be the Islanders’ defensive core of the future.
Aho played in 36 games in 2021-22, his most since his initial call-up several seasons ago. Over the course of the season, Aho tallied 32 hits, 42 blocked shots, 8 takeaways, and 27 giveaways.
Dobson got a plethora of playing time, appearing in 80 games and averaging over 21 minutes per game. During this time, Dobson recorded 78 hits, 154 blocked shots, 27 takeaways, and 82 giveaways.
With the help of Lambert, both of the aforementioned defensemen can continue to develop nicely if Lamoriello re-signs them. On top of this, Aho could get more playing time with Chára and/or Greene, not on the roster in 2022-23.
Conclusion: Do the Islanders Need to Move on From Anyone?
Yes and no. Although it is best for Chára to go, other veterans like Greene and Parise can stick around for another season. They will provide leadership to the team alongside captain Anders Lee, working with their younger teammates over the course of 2022-23.
After next season, however, the Islanders should move on from Greene and Parise. As important as it is for younger players to learn from older ones, they need to have more playing time.
It will be interesting to see the roster moves Lamoriello will make this offseason.