New York Islanders: Making sense of the Josh Ho-Sang story

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Josh Ho-Sang just can’t catch a break with the New York Islanders.

Is there a player more perplexing in the entire New York Islanders organization than Josh Ho-Sang?

Since being drafted 28th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft after a successful amateur career with the Windsor Spitfires, Ho-Sang has appeared in 53 NHL games, scored seven goals and 17 assists, and has been bounced off the Island in each of his professional seasons, including on the very first day of the 2015-16 season after oversleeping his alarm.

In 2019, Ho-Sang’s representatives officially requested a trade in the hopes of recapturing some of his pre-draft pedigree, but when one failed to materialize, Ho-Sang spent the remainder of the 2019-20 season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers before the team opted to re-assign him to the San Antonio Rampage, the St. Louis Blues’ affiliate, for the remainder of the COVID-shortened season.

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So naturally, when Ho-Sang’s contract came to a close at the end of the 2019-20 season, it made total sense for the two parties to amicably separate, right? Why on earth would GM Lou Lamoriello want to retain a player who 1. actively didn’t want to be there and 2. wasn’t even his draft pick? Why not just take the L and move on?

If that was your assumption, you’d be wrong.

In a move very few fans saw coming, the Islanders handed Ho-Sang a one-year, two-way extension worth $700,000 back in October to avoid arbitration. While said contract didn’t guarantee the somehow-only-24-year-old right winger a spot in the majors for the duration of the 2020-21 season, it did land him a noticeable increase in pay if he were to spend time in the minors from $70,000 in 2019-20 to $225,000 in 2020-21.

Only, here’s the thing – Ho-Sang may not be making that $700,000 or $225,000 in 2020-21, not from the Islanders anyway.

You see, in a weird twist of fate perfectly suited for the final gasps of 2020, the Islanders made it known that Ho-Sang would not be joining the team for the preseason. While he could still technically end up with Islanders in 2021, presumably on their four-to-six man Taxi Squad since the AHL is still working out the parameters for a February start date, he’d need to clear waivers to become eligible. Granted, it wouldn’t be the first time the Islanders subjected the 24-year-old to waivers, as he went unclaimed in 2019, but there’s a chance a similar situation comes down in the not too distant future.

Who knows, with teams like the New Jersey Devils, the Ottawa Senators, and the Detroit Red Wings flush with cap space, and in need of bottom-line talent, maybe Ho-Sang will finally have a chance to spend a full season in the NHL, without the constant stop-start sputtering of bouncing from one team to another? I imagine even Islanders fans wouldn’t mind that outcome unless, of course, he somehow develops into a consistent 60 point top-line guy.

I mean, he won’t, but the sentiment stands.

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To call Josh Ho-Sang’s career with the New York Islanders storied is apt – only his story is more of a tragedy than one destined for the annals of hockey lore. Despite initially being lauded for his talents in a profanity-laced stamp of approval from ex-GM Garth Snow, the uber-talented Canadian forward has rapidly found himself the odd man out on a team that theoretically has spots available for young upside skaters. While a reunion could still very much happen in a stoke of hockey serendipity, sometimes an amicable divorce simply makes more sense for all parties involved to move up and move on from a toxic relationship. But at this point, the shared future of the Islanders and JHS is about as clear as the Hudson.