Contingency Plan: Bolster Blue Line Depth With Erik Brannstrom

June 25, 2024
Posted in News
June 25, 2024 Stefen Rosner

Stefen Rosner makes his case for an alternative option should the Islanders swing and miss on bigger names this off-season.

The belief is that the New York Islanders will be focused on upgrading their forward group, specifically in the top six. But, as of right now, there is still a need for depth on the blue line.

The easy route for the Islanders is to re-sign left-side defenseman Mike Reilly to a short-term extension, which would allow prospects like Calle Odelius and Isaiah George to develop in the system rather than rushing them to the big stage.

READ MORE: Jeff Skinner Contingency Plan

Reilly was a tremendous, under-the-radar addition by Islanders’ general manager Lou Lamoriello back in late November after defenseman Adam Pelech and Sebastian Aho fell victim to injuries.

The 30-year-old, who had six goals and 18 assists in 59 games with New York, is a pending unrestricted free agent.

Whether Reilly is brought back or not, there still may be an opening on the blue line for a seventh defenseman.

“So, if the Islanders are in need of an extra defenseman, could a young Ottawa Senators defenseman be an option?”

Right now, that position is held by 23-year-old Samuel Bolduc, who played in just three games after Patrick Roy took over behind New York’s bench.

The former second-round pick in 2019 is still a major question mark, and with one year left on his contract, it is possible that he could be included in a package to bolster the club.

So, if the Islanders are in need of an extra defenseman, could a young Ottawa Senators defenseman be an option?

How about Erik Brannstrom?

The 24-year-old pending restricted free agent is eligible to sign a $2 million qualifying offer after signing a one-year deal last summer worth $900,000.

Because of that exponential rise, he may not get a qualifying offer from the Senators, which would make him an unrestricted free agent come July 1 if they don’t trade his rights.

However, it sounds like they are trying to, per The Ottawa Citizen’s Bruce Garrioch:

“The Ottawa Senators have a decision to make on defenceman Erik Brannstrom. Brannstrom, a restricted free agent, requires a $2-million qualifying offer to retain his rights for free agency and the Senators are torn on whether they want to go that route.

Brannstrom is not a point-producing defenseman, scoring three goals with 17 assists in 76 games this past season.

But with the ability to play both sides, lining up on the right of Thomas Chabot on the club’s third defense pairing, he can eat minutes, which may be a need early on in 2024-25 if Scott Mayfield (season-ending ankle injury that was suffered in Game 1 of the regular season) needs to ramp up his workload early on in 2024-25.

Brannstrom averaged 16:35 minutes per night, playing on their second penalty-kill unit as well.

As for what Brannstrom would cost on the open market, his annual value will likely come in between $950,000 and $1.5 million.

The Islanders currently have $5.8 million in cap space, per CapFriendly.

The smarter move for New York, given that he was a clear fit, is bringing back Reilly.

But if they can’t and Bolduc is either starting for New York or no longer on the island, Erik Brannstrom could be a contingency plan if a defenseman is still a need as the summer progresses.

Brannstrom goes coast-to-coast for a snipe vs. the Lightning.

For more off-season coverage, catch Hockey Night in New York with hosts Sean Cuthbert and Stefen Rosner live from Floored Media in Rockville Centre this Sunday June 30th at 8PM ET!

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