Before getting to the tough part, let’s start with some good news. According to the rules, the Isles don’t have to risk losing their stars of tomorrow. Exempt from the draft are Oliver Wahlstrom, Bode Wilde, Noah Dobson, Simon Holmstrom, and Ilya Sorokin. Also good news, no one eligible has an iron-clad no-movement clause.
Among the eight forwards protected, Mathew Barzal tops the list. Andres Lee is the team captain, the New York Islanders have to protect him, or it will not sit well with the locker room. Next on the list are a pair of productive players that have been with the team for years, Josh Bailey, and Brock Nelson. The team invested heavily in J.G. Pageau at last year’s deadline, so unless he’s a bust next year, the face-off ace will be protected as well.
That leaves Andrew Ladd, Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Otto Koivula, Michael Dal Colle, and Kieffer Bellows as candidates to get one of the last two protected slots. The latter four are restricted free agents in 2021, but I expect all of them to be resigned. Of the group, I protected Beauvillier and Koivula.
On defense, Nick Leddy is first. Ryan Pulock will sign at least a bridge deal this summer, or possibly a longer-term contract. He is protected as well. I went with Scott Mayfield for the third slot over Johnny Boychuk and Thomas Hickey due to age and cost. Finally, as it stands right now, Semyon Varlamov is the only goalie under contract with the Islanders after this season. The Islanders will sign others, but according to the rules, he has to be exposed.