For all of last season, Scott Mayfield made clear at every opportunity that he wanted to stay with the Islanders.
But when the rubber hit the road, there was one stipulation.
“I was pretty honest with [general manager] Lou [Lamoriello] at the beginning that if I felt like this wasn’t a place we could win, I don’t know if our talks would’ve gone the same way,” Mayfield said Saturday at Anders Lee’s Kancer Jam fundraiser. “I always thought this was a team that could win. We’ve had some success, but we just gotta make sure we could find that next level.”
The self-belief of the Islanders’ players is evident whenever asked, and a few days before training camp is hardly the time for pessimism.
Mayfield, a career Islander who makes his home on Long Island over the summer, had more than on-ice reasons to sign a seven-year, $24.5 million extension on July 1 that makes it likely he’ll retire wearing blue and orange.
Even so, if he harbored doubts about the franchise’s ability to field a contender two years on from its last playoff series win and after a 42-31-9 season that ended in the first round, free agency would have been the time to act on them.
Instead, Mayfield — along with every other free agent on the Islanders’ roster — re-upped, and the Isles will bring an almost identical group to training camp, expecting it to improve on last season.
Said Hudson Fasching, who signed for two years at $775,000 per season: “It felt really good to have that contract signed and to be coming back here. I wanted to be able to come back here.”
Said Pierre Engvall, who signed for seven years at $3 million per season after coming over from Toronto in a trade deadline deal: “I just didn’t know how they were gonna be able to fit all the guys or anything about that. We were able to do something good for everyone. I think everyone’s really happy with how it worked out.”
The way Lamoriello did end up navigating the team’s cap dilemma — he also had to re-sign Semyon Varlamov (four years, $11 million) and extend Ilya Sorokin (eight years, $66 million) — was by handing out term to make up for lower annual value.
That allowed the Islanders to keep everyone they wanted to keep, but they are already on the books for $49.55 million in cap dollars for the 2026-27 season — which will almost assuredly translate to more than 50 percent of that season’s salary cap, even if there are considerable spikes between now and then.
In other words, the easiest time for them to win would be, approximately, as soon as possible.
“With that term comes a lot of responsibility on individuals, I think,” the 30-year-old Mayfield said. “For me, it’s making sure I stay healthy, making sure my body’s always where it needs to be. That does put more pressure on you with term like that. That’s something I take very seriously. I see the commitment they’ve made to me and now I need to make sure I do everything I can to make that last.”
Mayfield is one of three defensemen the Islanders have under contract through 2029, along with Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech. Add into the mix Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov, two young defensemen who should both re-sign upon hitting restricted free agency in 2026, and the Isles feel as though they can be set on the back end for the foreseeable future.
“Me, Pelly and Pulock all came up together through Bridgeport,” Mayfield said. “We’ve spent a lot of time together, families all hang out. It’s definitely special. We have a special thing here.
“Now it’s [about] finding that next level, because we kinda knocked on the door, but we gotta make sure we find that little bit more now.”