The New York Islanders would like to re-sign forwards Casey Cizikas and Kyle Palmieri before they can become unrestricted free agents July 28, general manager Lou Lamoriello said Tuesday.
Cizikas finished his 10th season with the Islanders. He is the center of what coach Barry Trotz calls “The Identity Line” with forwards Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck and plays a key role on the penalty kill. He scored 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 56 regular-season games and five points (two goals, three assists) in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games, helping New York reach the third round for the second straight season. The Islanders lost 1-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals on Friday.
“There’s no question what Casey Cizikas has brought to the team,” Lamoriello said. “We will do everything we possibly can to try and have him come back. Certainly, his set of circumstances are unique, and also is maybe positive for us because he’s an unrestricted free agent and we do not have to make any decisions with expansion.
“We will continue to talk with him. He has expressed his desire to come back, but we also know that when you get into free agency, that’s a time for the player to make whatever the best decision is for him, his family and his future. We respect that, but we will do everything to retain Casey that we possibly can.”
As potential unrestricted free agents, Cizikas and Palmieri are not eligible to be selected by the Seattle Kraken at the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft on July 21. The Islanders can protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goalie.
Palmieri was acquired from the New Jersey Devils, along with forward Travis Zajac, on April 7 and scored nine points (seven goals, two assists) in 19 playoff games. He was born in Smithtown, New York, and has family on Long Island.
“If the question is would we like to have Kyle Palmieri back, the answer is yes,” Lamoriello said. “I have had a conversation with Kyle, and I have asked him if he would want to come back if there was something that potentially could be worked out, and his answer was yes. He also knows our set of circumstances with reference to our (salary) cap and our roster, but he is also, like Casey, in a unique situation. He is a total free agent, so he is outside the expansion thought process.
“We potentially cannot keep every player that we have here because we can only protect so many, so you never know what transpires. But we have an open mind. Our coaching staff felt the same way, how well he fit in, how his style fit in with the style that we play and certainly the success he had during the playoffs. He would be someone that we certainly would have a strong sort of intention to bring back if possible.”
The Islanders also need to re-sign defenseman Adam Pelech, forward Anthony Beauvillier and goalie Ilya Sorokin, who are pending restricted free agents. Lamoriello said the intention is to re-sign all three.
“This is a very special core group, not only talented, but individually professionally and personally,” Lamoriello said. “We will do everything we can to keep certainly the core together, (but) it will be impossible because of expansion year and also because of free agency that comes about, and also some of our young players who we think that we might be ready for NHL time.
“These will be difficult decisions, but I’d rather have these type of decisions than no decision at all.”