There was no such thing as an ideal outcome for the Islanders once Adam Pelech went on long-term injured reserve with an upper-body injury, but Mike Reilly becoming available on waivers might have been about as close as they could have reasonably gotten to one.
An NHL veteran of nine years, Reilly has played 341 games in the league and should help shore up the Islanders’ bottom pair as things are shuffled around to make up for the absences of Pelech and Sebastian Aho (upper body).
Reilly is expected to make his Islanders debut on Tuesday in New Jersey on a pair with Grant Hutton while Noah Dobson skates to the left of Scott Mayfield on the top pair.
Alexander Romanov and Ryan Pulock are expected to stay together on the second pair.
“I was just waiting around, and it’s very exciting to get this opportunity, and it’s a team I’ve played a lot, played in the playoffs a couple times,” Reilly said after his first practice with the Islanders on Monday. “Familiar with a couple guys in here. Definitely really excited.”
Reilly signed with the Panthers last offseason on a one-year deal but could not crack the lineup aside from two games.
Mike Reilly will add a veteran presence — and brings puck-moving skills — to the Isles’ blue line. NHLI via Getty Images
Before that, he found himself on the outs with the Bruins, playing just 10 games with the club in 2022-23 after being in the everyday lineup one year prior.
Still, especially with Samuel Bolduc struggling in the chances he’s gotten this season, Reilly figures to help the Islanders with his ability to move the puck, play on the second power-play unit.
With the experience he brings also comes an implicit understanding that he should be able to avoid bad turnovers and mistakes in his own end.
That might just be a key ingredient in the recipe for surviving the coming weeks for the Islanders.
“I think he’s a great skater,” Hudson Fasching told The Post of Reilly, his teammate at the University of Minnesota. “That’s always the first thing you’ll notice with him. He’s got a lot of skill, moves well out there, he’s a skilled defenseman. He ran the power play for us at school, did a really good job.”
Reilly, who arrived on Long Island from Florida on Sunday, said he’s talked to Lou Lamoriello and Lane Lambert about his role and expects his puck-moving to be an asset.
“Think the system is pretty straightforward a little bit,” Reilly said. “Talked to them, showed some video this morning before we went on the ice. Went over the neutral zone and a couple other things. So I think it’s similar to other teams’ systems in a way. There’s always some tweaks here or there.”
Even with Reilly’s addition, the entire defense corps is facing a major ask right now and, though they’ll carry a six-game points streak into Tuesday’s game with the Devils, the Islanders cannot afford another losing streak like they had earlier this month.
The combination of loser points and the rest of the Metropolitan Division let them get back into the race without much issue after a seven-game skid, but it’s fair to assume they’ve used up their joker now.
Reilly is thankful for another chance after struggling to crack the Bruins’ and Panthers’ lineups. Getty Images
The schedule, at least in the immediate future, will do them no favors.
The Islanders will play three road games this week against teams that were in the playoffs last spring, with matches in Carolina and Florida following the game against the Devils.
“I think the challenge [without Pelech] is that we should be more concentrated on playing a solid defensive game,” Alexander Romanov said. “We can join the rush, we can play in offense. But first of all, we should play with confidence and with concentration, PK and in our zone.”
Dobson, who is playing on his off side, said Pelech’s absence was unlikely to affect his style of play but would put him in different situations.
“In those situations, you gotta be cautious and aware,” Dobson said. “Obviously just part of it for myself is just learning to manage the game, too, at times, with Adam or without Adam. Late in periods, late in games, you gotta be smart. He’s a guy that plays those minutes and those situations. So you gotta really be cautious and be aware when you’re out in those situations that he usually would be.”