New York Islanders Best and Worst Free Agent Signings

New York Islanders Free Agent Signings

Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2022 summer series, exploring the best and worst free agent signings for each NHL team of the post-lockout, salary cap era. With this past offseason seeing some big splashes (and potential gambles) like Johnny GaudreauClaude GirouxJohn Klingberg, and others, it’s time to take a look at how teams have boosted and stunted their progress in recent history. Today, we take a look at the New York Islanders free agent signings history.

New York Islanders Free Agent Hits and Misses

Best Singing: Matt Moulson

The Islanders signed Matt Moulson as a free agent in 2009. The contract was for one year and $575,000. Moulson was coming off his entry-level contract with the Los Angeles Kings. Moulson appeared in 29 games with the Kings and scored six goals and 10 points. Despite not really showing he was an NHL calibre player, the Islanders took a flyer on him. Signing Moulson is probably one of the greatest value deals in NHL history.

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Moulson almost immediately found chemistry with Islander star John Tavares. After leading the team in scoring in the pre-season, Moulson earned a roster spot with the Islanders to start the 2009-10 season. Moulson kept up his strong play in the regular season and scored 30 goals and 48 points during his first season on Long Island. It’s very rare to find a 30-goal scorer for $575,000. After the season Moulson re-signed with the Islanders for one year and $2.5 million dollars. He responded to his raise by scoring 31 goals and 53 points. The Islanders found themselves a gem. Moulson would play just over two more seasons with the Islanders. He scored 36 goals and 15 goals (in 47 games – a 26-goal pace). Moulson would be traded to the Buffalo Sabres 11 games into the 2013-14 season.

While the Islanders only had Moulson for a short time, they definitely got the most out of him. His chemistry with John Tavares propelled him to the best statistical period of his career. After leaving New York, Moulson never even score 20 goals in a season again. His production and value are what make him the best of the New York Islanders free agent signings.

Honourable Mention: Mark Streit

Mark Streit came to the NHL very late. He preferred to stay in his home country of Switzerland. By age 26, however, he entered the NHL draft, where he was a ninth-round selection of the Montreal Canadiens. Streit played three seasons in Montreal where he established himself as a very good offensive defenceman. His final season with the Habs saw him score 13 goals and 62 points.

The Islanders signed Streit to a five-year, $20.5 million dollar contract. Streit proved to be well worth the $4.1 million AAV he was earning. In his first season, he led the Islanders in scoring with 56 points (16 goals) and was named to his first All-Star game. He was also slotted in the Islanders top defensive pairing averaging around 25 minutes per night. He followed that up with an 11-goal 47-point season in 2009-10. Streit again averaged over 25 minutes a night.

While he missed the entire 2010-11 season with an injury, he returned in 2011-12 and the age of 34 and put up 47 points. In his final year with the Islanders, Streit was named captain. He was the first Swiss-born captain in NHL history. He put up 27 points in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

Worst Signing: Andrew Ladd

The Islanders decision to sign Andrew Ladd was a head-scratcher as soon as it was announced. Yes, he had put together a good career with Atlanta/Winnipeg. He scored at least 23 goals in four of his six seasons with the franchise. The two seasons he missed were due to the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season (he scored 18 in 48 games – a 31-goal pace) and 17 goals in 59 games (23-goal pace) in 2015-16. The issue was that Ladd was 32 at the time and nobody knew how much gas he had left in the tank. So when the Islanders signed Ladd to a seven-year, $38.5 million dollar contract, it raised some eyebrows.

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Ladd’s first season with the Islanders started out pretty difficult. He didn’t score in his first 12 games. Still, Ladd was able to rebound and scored 23 goals, but only 31 points overall. That was Ladd’s peak with the Islanders. His production dropped significantly in the following seasons. By the third year of the contract, Ladd was being placed on waivers to see if another team would take on his contract. When he wasn’t claimed, he went down to the AHL. Not what the Islanders expected from a player with an AAV of $5.5 million. After being put on waivers multiple times,  Ladd was traded to the Arizona Coyotes after his fifth season with the Islanders. The Andrew Ladd experience with the Islanders was a disaster. That is why it is the worst of all the New York Islanders free agent signings.

Honourable Mentions: Mikhail Grabovski

The Islanders signed Mikhail Grabovski to a four-year $20 million dollar contract in the 2014 off-season. At the time, this was also seen as a risk of a contract as Grabovski seemed past his days as a 20-goal scorer. The concerns about Grabovski were realized. Unfortunately, Grabovski’s time with the Islanders suffered due to injuries but he also struggled to provide the secondary scoring the Islanders were looking for. He only made it through two of the four years of the contract. In his two seasons with the Islanders, Grabovski didn’t score more than nine goals and 25 points. During the expansion draft, the Islanders cut a deal with the Vegas Golden Knights to take Grabovski off their hands. The deal involved, in part, the Islanders sending the Golden Knights a 2017 first-round pick (Erik Brandstrom) and a 2019 second-round pick for expansion draft considerations.