The Islanders crossed one of two restricted free agents off their board on Tuesday, signing defenseman Samuel Bolduc to a two year contract. Bolduc, 22, made his NHL debut last season and got stretches of playing time on the left side of the Islanders’ defense. With signing on for two more seasons on a one-way deal, he will likely be a vital part to their defense for the future. However, what does his signing mean for the rest of the Islanders’ defensive ranks?
Who Will Be the Team’s Seventh Defenseman?
With Bolduc locked up, the left hand side of the Islanders’ defense is mostly set. Adam Pelech will be the top man on that front, with Alex Romanov behind him on pair two. Bolduc will likely round out the bottom pair, but the odd man out looks like Sebastian Aho: the Islanders’ one. Aho made considerable strides last season, scoring five goals and 18 assists for 23 points in his first year of regular playing time. While he struggled for stretches, he turned heads and made a case to be on the roster next season. However, either Aho or Bolduc will be demoted to the seventh defenseman, leaving that area in question. Aho has the chance to walk away next offseason as an unrestricted free agent, but it will be a competition in camp to determine who earns the playing time.
Who Will Play on the Second Pair?
On paper, the defensive pairings should include Pelech and Ryan Pulock, along with Noah Dobson and whoever wins the final spot. However, Romanov’s partner is still in doubt with Scott Mayfield possibly hitting the market. Recent speculation states the Islanders are eager to keep Mayfield around, but the team is unsure whether or not that is possible. With the team looking to move salary prior to free agency opening, clearing space will be vital for their efforts to keep him. If not, they might have to pivot elsewhere to finish out their defense. With names like Matt Dumba and John Klingberg available, as well as possible trade chips, there are options available to replace him, but the preference is to keep their guy around.
Where the Islanders Sit Now:
All told, the Islanders now have about $4.5 million in cap space to play with according to CapFriendly. However, once free agency opens, that number will grow a bit with Mayfield’s and Semyon Varlmaov’s contracts coming off the books. Also, depending on what the Islanders decide to do with Josh Bailey, that number could grow by as much as $5 million, although it might be less than that. With the draft and July 1’s UFA deadline approaching, the pinch is on as the Islanders look to build off of last season’s postseason appearance and go deep once again. However, getting a key piece to their defense locked up is a good place to start if the Islanders want to make their move.
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Featured image courtesy of Islanders.com
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