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.