Editorials

New York Islanders and NHL Overvalue 4th Liners

By Matt O'Leary
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - MARCH 05: Leo Komarov #47 of the New York Islanders prepares to skate against the Ottawa Senators at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on March 05, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Senators 5-4 in the shoot-out. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - MARCH 05: Leo Komarov #47 of the New York Islanders prepares to skate against the Ottawa Senators at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on March 05, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Senators 5-4 in the shoot-out. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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The New York Islanders and the rest of the NHL seemingly love to give bottom-six forwards long-term deals. Why is that, when they hold little value?

Today, we learned of one of the craziest deals for a fourth-liner that I’ve ever seen. Thankfully, it wasn’t the New York Islanders on the giving end this time. Instead, David Poile and the Nashville Predators were the ones who gave a fourth-liner a head-scratching deal.

Colton Sissons, who is coming off a 30 point season (career-high), received a seven-year $20 million deal. Yes, the cap hit is under $3 million, which theoretically isn’t terrible, but seven years for a bottom-six player (despite his young age) is just wild.

Truly, I will never understand the love affair with paying fourth-liners top dollar and giving them term. It’s easily the most replaceable role in the sport. The Isles have been kings of overpaying and overvaluing fourth line talent.

It started with Casey Cizikas in 2016. He was given a five-year deal with a $3.35 million cap hit. Now, that deal looks pretty solid after a 20 goal season but the first two years were rough considering injuries and his corresponding production.

If Cizikas is in a third-line role, this kind of cap number is just fine. He would likely give you 35 points for his $3.35 million cap hit which is fair value. But, playing on the fourth line and giving you 17 and 25 points like he did the last two years isn’t good value on that deal.

I like Cizikas, but going from a two-year $2 million contract to a five-year $16.75 million contract always seemed crazy. The Isles followed that up by giving Cal Clutterbuck five-years, Leo Komarov four-years, and Ross Johnston four-years. Again, why?

Ross Johnston at only $1 million AAV you can brush aside but Clutterbuck at $3.5 million AAV and Komarov at $3 million AAV is a good chunk of change for someone who is just a grinder.

I understand that you can’t have four lines of just skill but allocating such a large percentage of your cap to players who’s ceilings are fourth liners is just crazy. Down Goes Brown said it best in his article today.

He went through and gave out stereotypical lines (mostly just descriptions) for your favorite team, it was very funny and mostly on-point. Paraphrasing, but he essentially says why pay someone $3 million per year and for term when there’s someone who can do that same thing for a lot less.

When you really break it down could Tanner Fritz do the same thing as Cal Clutterbuck? Absolutely. Clutter gave the Islanders 23 points and 209 hits. Over Fritz’s 42 game career, he’s on pace for a 16 point season and costs $2.8 million less against the cap.

He could kill penalties and play 9-11 minutes a night. There’s no reason to pay a 31-year-old Ca Clutterbuck to do that.

Same goes for Matt Martin. I love Matty, he’s a great guy off the ice and serves a purpose on the ice but is he worth a $2.5 million cap hit and four-year deal (what he originally signed in 2016)? No.

Ross Johnston is a carbon copy of Matt Martin and he does it for $1.5 million less than what Matt does it for. In a capped league, you can’t overpay for depth and bottom of the roster talent.

Next. 3 Islanders prospects in the top-50

As we saw today, the Islanders aren’t the only team who does this it’s a fairly common thing to give a mediocre fourth-liner $3 million or more a year for a decent amount of term when you can get someone to serve the same purpose for $700,000 to $1 million.

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