One restricted free agent that’s still working on getting a deal done is Islanders forward Josh Bailey. Bailey joins the likes of Drew Doughty, Luke Schenn, and Kyle Turris as high profile RFAs that are still without a contract as training camp approaches this weekend. While the Kings, Leafs, and Coyotes are going to continue negotiating with their respective players into and through training camp if needed, the Islanders do things a little bit differently.
Islanders owner Charles Wang seems like a free and easy going guy, but if you want to play for the Islanders and you’re one of his restricted free agents, you’d better have a contract signed by the time training camp starts or else. As Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank pointed out back on August 25, Wang’s policy is that if an RFA is unsigned by the start of camp, negotiations are over and done with and the player will sit out the entire season.
Isles training camp starts tomorrow and Josh Bailey is a restricted free agent that’s still without a deal. Katie Strang of ESPN New York relayed today that if Bailey isn’t signed by 7 a.m. ET tomorrow, the Islanders will force Bailey to sit out the entire season while the Islanders retain his rights.
If Bailey winds up not getting a deal done, the Islanders will have a hole to fill on their third line center position. With John Tavares taking the first line and Frans Nielsen on the second line, Bailey was set to be the guy on the third line to start the year. Should Bailey be out, it could open up a spot in training camp for 2011 first round pick Ryan Strome to make a run at making the Islanders. Strome is most likely going to be heading back to junior hockey but he could help force both GM Garth Snow and coach Jack Capuano to take a long look at him in camp.
Those are a lot of “ifs” and “maybes” thrown in there, but Bailey having difficulty in getting a deal worked out is a bit mystifying on its own. Bailey’s first three seasons in the NHL have seen the former first round pick struggle to find his way. His first two NHL seasons saw him score a total of 23 goals and 37 assists over 141 games.
Last season, Bailey appeared set to break out getting off to a hot start in his first five games scoring three goals and adding three assists. Bailey followed that up by going pointless in his next 14 games before being sent to the AHL for a month. After being called back up, he was held pointless in his first game back before scoring two goals and an assist against the Devils in his second game. Bailey finished the season with 11 goals and 17 assists. No details about the negotiations have come out at all, but it’s hard to imagine that things could be as acrimonious as negotiations are with Phoenix and Kyle Turris.
Time ticks away for Bailey and the Islanders. If Bailey isn’t signed, Isles training camp gets a lot more interesting to watch.