It’s not time for Isles fans to panic about Josh Bailey, right?

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NHL teams are about three weeks away from training camp and there are a few restricted free agents that remain unsigned. One of the interesting situations is out on Long Island where Islanders GM Garth Snow continues to negotiate with young forward Josh Bailey. Almost from the moment the organization selected him with the 9th overall pick in the 2008 Entry Draft, his career has been marred by missteps and mismanagement. As the season inches closer, it should come as no surprise that Bailey is enduring yet another speed bump in his young career.

Of course, there’s plenty of time to sign Bailey. The 21-year-old center is a restricted free agent without arbitration rights; and it’s not like teams are knocking down his door with offer sheets. Chris Botta from Islanders Point Blank outlines three specific reasons why it’s way too early to worry about the Islanders and Josh Bailey’s contract negotiations:

1. Josh Bailey, 22 on Oct. 2, loves being an Islander and appreciates the opportunity the organization has provided him since he was drafted 9th overall in 2008. The Islanders like the forward just as much, see him as part of their nucleus, are confident his skills will lead to major contributions on the ice and respect his maturation away from the playing surface. Both sides want to get a deal done.

2. Although Garth Snow did a masterful job getting the older and more accomplished Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo under long-term contracts with cap-friendly terms, Bailey is in a different boat. The first contract after his just-completed ELC will likely be for a shorter term.

3. Several RFAs have yet to come to terms with their clubs on their second pro deals, including Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Luke Schenn, Bruins playoff hero Brad Marchand and skilled Coyotes rush-job Kyle Turris. It is worth noting that Doughty, Schenn, Marchand and Bailey are all represented by the respected Newport Sports Management.

As Botta later points out, owner Charles Wang has a policy that if a player is not signed by training camp, “he will not play for the Islanders and will not receive a contract for the season.” For those keeping track at home, the Islanders are set to open training camp in 23 days on Saturday, September 17.

Dominik at Lighthouse Hockey makes a very convincing argument that Bailey deserves a better contract than Mikkel Boedker’s recent 2-year, $2.2 million (total) deal. Whether the Islanders end up paying him anywhere from $1.1 – $1.8 million per season, they’ll do so without the limitations of a salary cap. The only way Josh Bailey’s contract could pose significant salary cap problems is if they offered him a contract in the neighborhood of $1 trillion (that may or may not be an exaggeration).  Then again, that may be a slight overpayment for a player who has put up 88 points in 211 career games.

In the absence of extenuating circumstances, the negotiations come down to Bailey’s view of his self-worth vs. the Islanders view of Bailey’s worth. Early last season he showed the organization that he can produce at a strong pace when put in a position to succeed. He was healthy. He was paying with talented linemates. He was scoring. Of course, all of that changed when he was injured and the Islanders sent him down to Bridgeport while they still had the chance to move him to the AHL without waivers. Yet the fact remains that he flourished when he was given the tools to thrive.

Like so many second contracts, the debate comes down to paying for potential vs. paying for productivity. In this case, the Islanders are as much to blame for Bailey’s lack of productivity over his first three seasons because of they rushed him to the NHL when he really should have been sent down to continue his development. Instead, the Islanders threw him into the fire and watched a youngster struggle in a situation that he was ill-equipped to handle.

We’ll see who’s going to pay for that mistake. Will the Islanders bite the bullet and pay for the NHL potential that Bailey still possesses? Or will it be Bailey who pays the price for the Islanders mismanagement? Either way, it sounds like we’ll find out in 23 days.

WATCH LIVE: Kraft Hockeyville featuring Penguins vs. Blues

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are set to host the St. Louis Blues to celebrate the latest edition of Kraft Hockeyville USA, with the game beginning at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Find out more about Kraft Hockeyville winner Belle Vernon, Pa. in the video above this post’s headline (and also in this post). The game itself is taking place at UPMC Lemieux Sports complex in Cranberry, Pa.

NHL.com captures some of the spectacle, as about 2,000 fans showed up and players signed autographs during what sounded like a very fun event.

Speaking of very fun, all signs point to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin being among those players suiting up for the game itself.

Predators marvel at Fiala’s ‘beautiful’ work in preseason win

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Confession: It was difficult to shake the memory of Kevin Fiala‘s frightening injury from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If you need a reminder of the scary moment that ended what seemed like a breakthrough run, the video can be seen above this headline.

Another confession: personally, there’s been some concern about how well Fiala can bounce back, at least early on. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the young forward is his blazing speed; what if that’s been taken away from him?

Now, scoring two goals in the Nashville Predators’ 5-3 preseason win against the Columbus Blue Jackets doesn’t mean Fiala will avoid missing a beat in 2017-18.

Forgive Predators fans for getting excited, anyway, especially with goals like these.

Wow.

Filip Forsberg got borderline-romantic about what Fiala did on Sunday, and again, can you really blame him?

Again, the true tests for both Fiala and the Predators begin in October. Still, it’s better to look impressive at this time of the year instead of to go in slow (or injured, as the unlucky St. Louis Blues seem to be doing).

Gaudreau, other NHL players approve of crackdown on slashing

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When slash after slash broke one of Johnny Gaudreau‘s fingers, he called it part of the game.

The Calgary Flames winger known as “Johnny Hockey” is one of the NHL’s most marketable players, so broken bones should be a problem.

Slashing has become such a regular element in NHL games that it necessitated 791 minor penalties last season with countless more going uncalled. Gaudreau’s broken finger and Marc Methot‘s lacerated pinkie brought enough attention to the issue that the league is taking a stronger stand on flagrant slashing this year to cut down on injuries and obstruction.

“I think it’s tough for the refs to make those calls in games: You don’t really know how bad a slash is,” said Gaudreau, who sat out two and a half weeks after surgery to repair a fractured finger on his left hand. “But if they can harp down or look at it a little more closely, I think it might cause a little less injuries. Guys won’t be missing substantial time. I think it’d be huge.”

It was impossible to ignore slashing when Sidney Crosby sliced Methot’s finger open during a game in March, forcing the defenseman to miss three weeks. No penalty was called, and Crosby didn’t receive any supplemental discipline.

After members of the league’s competition committee recommended a closer look at slashing, officials have been instructed that it’s OK to call it more this season. NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom said the rise in slashing over the past decade came about after the stricter enforcement of hooking and holding following the 2004-05 lockout with players finding new tactics to slow the game down.

“Players started slashing in between the hands and on the hands, and the whacking became hacking became something that became the norm in the game,” Walkom said. “It’s time to have a stronger enforcement to let the players know what they can and can’t do. If you’re going to be whacking a player’s hands six, eight feet from the puck, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be penalized if it’s seen by the officials on the ice.”

So many slashing penalties were called in the first few preseason games that it was somewhat comical. Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere understands slashing but said he doesn’t know if it should be a penalty when no one knows why the whistle was blown.

Walkom sent a note reminding referees that the intent was to focus on slashes around the hands, not every time a player’s stick hits an opponent in the heavily-padded pants. Slashing at players’ hands will not only be an area of emphasis on the ice but also from the league office where new vice president of player safety George Parros is watching closely.

The former enforcer said slashes delivered with greater force or directed at players’ fingers will be met with fines and/or suspensions.

“We’re going to try and change player behavior,” Parros said. “We’re certainly trying to get rid of a pattern of a certain type of slash. If that’s like a harder slash on the fingertips as opposed to maybe in the elbow pad or something, that might be something we look at. And if it’s a pattern of a certain type of location slash or if it’s a pattern of a player, we’re going to look to eliminate both of those.”

Reducing unnecessary injuries is just one piece of this tighter enforcement. As with the crackdown on the hooking, holding and interference that mucked games up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, fewer slashes should open the ice up for offensive players at even-strength and potentially lead to more power plays.

“In some ways it’s going to put even bigger premium on getting body position and not being stuck in a position where you have to reach for a guy,” Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner said. “Usually that’s a positive sign for getting more opportunities to produce.”

St. Louis Blues coach Mike Yeo said he already noticed players slashing less often a few games into the preseason. That’s one of the intended consequences of calling certain types of slashes more.

“The players are the smartest people in the game relative to the game and they will adjust because nobody wants to sit in the penalty box,” Walkom said. “A lot of it’s reflex and habit, but the players will break old habits with a consistent enforcement.”

Old habits die hard, but it’s easier than healing broken bones.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Looks like Coyotes dodged a bullet with Oliver Ekman-Larsson

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The Arizona Coyotes’ defense really rose up the NHL ranks during this summer, but how impressive would that group look with star Oliver Ekman-Larsson out of the lineup?

There was fear that another Coyotes young blueliner would face a setback as far as knee injuries go, yet the news seems positive for “OEL.”

Coyotes GM John Chayka considers him day-to-day with a knee injury, and it doesn’t sound like there’s any structural damage.

No kidding.

In other Coyotes news, the team made Pierre-Olivier Joseph (the 23rd pick of the 2017 NHL Draft) one of their training camp cuts. So not all good news for prominent Coyotes with hyphenated names, although you could argue that POJ(?) might be better off receiving additional seasoning.