Gary Bettman announced yesterday that the expected cap ceiling for 2019-2020 is $83 million. That’s a great sign for the New York Islanders.
The New York Islanders are unfortunately a team riddled with bad contracts. When you have a fourth line that makes $9.35 million, a 34-year-old defenseman that makes $6 million and a traffic cone that makes $5.5 million any cap increase you can get certainly helps.
In 2018-2019 the NHL salary cap is $79.5 million. According to Gary Bettman, the expected NHL cap ceiling for next year is roughly $83 million.
Since we already went over all the bad contracts you’d assume that the Isles will be pressed for cap space. Despite all the rough cap numbers, the Islanders will have $47,771,666 in contracts for next year.
That leaves the Islanders with $35,228,334 in cap space.
The Islanders only have one RFA to sign, currently on the roster, going into next year and that’s Anthony Beauvillier. Beauvillier is on pace for 31 points this year after a slow start out of the gate. He finished with 36 last year and in all likelihood, he finishes with 35-40 points this season.
Lou Lamoriello has shown to give bridge deals to his RFA’s rather than giving the long-term deal. Maybe a two-year $4 million contract, like what Ryan Pulock got this past summer.
The Islanders have a ton of UFA’s coming off the books at the end of the year. Jordan Eberle, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, Valtteri Filppula, Tom Kuhnhackl, Stephen Gionta, Luca Sbisa, and Robin Lehner are all set to come off the books.
Of those eight UFA’s the Islanders are likely bringing back two or three of them. Anders Lee seems to be the only given of the bunch. You can assume he’d yield a contract worth about $7 million AAV.
Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson, to me, feel like a better trade chip than a long-term solution to the Islanders. The Isles would be smart to get their one good year out of Valtteri Filppula and look to move on before doubling down on a 35-year-old.
Tom Kuhnhackl, Stephen Gionta, and Luca Sbisa should all be gone after the season without much question.
The last one that I could see coming back is Robin Lehner. The Isles are likely waiting out Ilya Sorokin for another year. Something like a three year deal with a $4 million cap hit seems about right for Lehner.
Free Agent Signing
If the Islanders do either trade or let Brock Nelson walk they’re going to need a replacement second line center. The obvious choice is someone the Islanders have been chasing for three years now, Matt Duchene.
Duchene has 33 points, in 27 games with Ottawa. His career high in points is 70, which he is on pace to break. The Islanders can give Duchene a six-year deal with an AAV around $8 million. The key here is to not give him any trade protection so you don’t get hosed like you have with the Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ladd deals.
Overall Cap Numbers/Lineup
If the Isles add Matt Duchene and retain Robin Lehner, Anders Lee, and Anthony Beauvillier with the projected numbers that would leave them at roughly $66.8 million. The Isles, of course, would have to give deals to guys like Josh Ho-Sang, Michael Dal Colle, and other guys in the system.
The idea is that you have roughly $10 million in cap space to give to Mathew Barzal on an eight-year contract after next season.
Lee – Barzal – Bailey
Bellows – Duchene – Ho-Sang
Beauvillier – Cizikas – Ladd
Komarov – Koivula – Clutterbuck
Toews – Pulock
Leddy – Boychuk
Hickey – Mayfield
Casey Cizikas slotting up to the third line is something I’d strongly consider. Look, I like the Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck line as much as the next guy but it can’t stick around forever. Martin can serve with Johnston on the scratch pad and rotate in for Komarov and Clutterbuck.
Otto Koivula has played really well in the AHL this year with 11 points in 20 games and might serve as a cost-effective option for the bottom six. At six-foot 190 pounds he should hold his own on any NHL fourth line.
The cap going up can certainly help the Islanders in the long run. The window for this team should begin to open next year, the Isles having over $35 million to play with is a great start to the future Lou Lamoriello plans.