Last week after it was announced the New York Islanders signed Cal Clutterbuck to a five-year extension, there were many critics panning this deal around the hockey world. And it wasn’t only directed at the Clutterbuck deal.
In addition to critiquing the Clutterbuck deal, New York Islanders fans, and critics alike through shade on Casey Cizikas, five-year extension this past summer. The question is where these critics on the mark? Let’s analyze Clutterbuck’s and Cizikas’s deals.
The NHL is Not Fantasy Hockey
Nobody is going to argue that the New York Islanders have two top scoring forwards in Clutterbuck and Cizikas, that’s not who they are as hockey players. But there are more things a productive forward can bring to the table than scoring. Yes, scoring is important but winning and losing hockey games are also about many other things. Building an NHL team is not the same script as being a fantasy hockey general manager.
Yes, scoring is important but winning and losing hockey games are also about many other things. Building an NHL team is not the same script as being a fantasy hockey general manager.
Clutterbuck is physical (always at the top of the hits list in the league every season), plays with grit and sandpaper, an agitator, draws penalties, kills penalties, provides secondary scoring, and scores timely goals. The 29-year-old winger brings a lot to the party and provides many attributes that a winning hockey team needs.
Cizikas is like the energizer bunny, he never stops. Cizikas is a strong defensive player, good on the face-off dot, another excellent penalty killer, plays with physicality, and centers a line that provides secondary offense. Cizikas is only 25 and has improved his play each season.
Many who have criticized Clutterbuck’s and Cizikas’ contracts say: “how do you sign them to contracts with a $3.5 million and $3.35 million cap hits respectively?” The answer to that is even hockey insiders are not paying enough attention to the rise of NHL player salaries.
What percentage of NHL players today make at least $4 million a year? Believe it or not that number currently stands at 39.5%. Five years ago in the 2011-12 season, that number stood at 23.0%.
That’s an increase of 71% of players making at least $4 million annually over the last five years. The numbers are just getting higher and higher each year.
Clutterbuck was going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Cizikas wasn’t far behind either. So how have the other strong secondary forwards done in free agency in recent years?
This past off-season Darren Helm signed a 5-year deal at $3.85 million per (Detroit), Marcus Kruger signed a 3-year deal at $3.083 million per with Chicago, and Matt Martin signed a 4-year deal at $2.5 million per with Toronto.
Over the last couple of years, Lars Eller signed a 4-year deal at $3.5 million per with the Montréal Canadiens and Benoit Pouliot signed a 5-year deal at $4 million per with Conor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers.
So to quote the great Mel Brooks “Why in the wide world of sports” are the Islanders getting scrutinized over the contract extensions with Clutterbuck and Cizikas? One of the reasons is the Islanders are an easy target for people to take a swipe at.
There is no doubt that the Islanders have a number of issues with this current NHL roster. Clutterbuck and Cizikas are part of the solution now and going forward and that’s an important factor to remember.