Over the past five seasons, the New York Islanders have been going through the process of rebuilding the team from the ground up. The first piece of that rebuilding puzzle was drafted 9th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. That pick was used for playmaking center Josh Bailey. Heading into this summer, Bailey was entering the last year of his contract and was a restricted free agent. Yesterday that was no more, as Islanders GM Garth Snow signed Bailey to a five-year deal worth$16.5 million. By signing Bailey, that now makes three players on the current Islanders roster who will be on the hockey club for five years or longer. The other two are John Tavares and Travis Hamonic.
Last year, in 38 games played, Bailey scored 11 goals and 19 points, which was the highest points per game total of his five year career. This included a surge of nine goals during the final 20 games that helped push the Islanders into the playoffs last year. Bailey has a scoring touch, averaging 25 points and at least 10 goals during his time with the Islanders. So we know Bailey has the talent to score. The only thing even remotely negative I can say about him is there are times when he does produce. But at the same time, there are times where he is invisible on the ice. Sure he can score a big goal, but that doesn’t really happen as much as I would personally like to see.
There are more positives to Bailey’s game then negatives. He’s great on face-offs, a good skater, and a great penalty killer. By locking up Bailey long term, it means the Islanders will have fewer unrestricted free agents to worry about leaving their team in the next few seasons. Having Snow pull this signing off was a great move, because it guarantees that the core of the Islanders team is going to be together and stay that way for a while.
Now that Bailey has the contract he wants, I would really love to see him step his game up and put up more offensive numbers. The defensive aspect of his game at the moment is fine, but the offensive upside to Bailey needs to be worked on just a little bit. Now I’m not complaining about his numbers being right around average, but for a guy who was taken as high in the draft as Bailey was, you would think he would be able to put up better numbers. Bailey is a center by nature, as we know, but can also play wing as well. Usually he was put on the wing when playing on the same line as Frans Neilsen. For Bailey to really take his game to the next level, he has to get comfortable and really showcase the skills that helped get him to the big leagues.
With the new contract now in his pocket, Bailey can focus on his game and take it to a higher level next season.