There is now labor peace in the NHL for at least three more years. How might this affect the New York Islanders?
There will be peace in our time. Which means we don’t have to worry about there being an interruption in New York Islanders hockey for at least three seasons.
After some concern that the NHL owners or the players (NHLPA) would exercise their option to open the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) early, they have both agreed to continue to work and play under the current CBA which does not expire until the end of the 2021-2022 season.
In my opinion and as currently constructed, the New York Islanders will make the playoffs this year but I do not think they will make a serious Stanley Cup run. It is well documented the Islanders need more offensive firepower and that will have to come from a trade or signing. The question always is, what is Lou Lamoriello thinking?
As of this posting Lamoriello still has over $4.6 million in cap space and the Isles need at least two more quality scoring forwards. He also has to deal with Mathew Barzal as a pending RFA next year. What will Barzal do and want in terms of years and money as an RFA? With a new CBA to be negotiated does Barzal play hardball or ask for a short term “bridge” deal to see if there’s more dollars available later?
In the next few years, many of the big names that will be available in free agency are older and will be out of, or near the end of their prime. What are the targets for Lou and does he go hard after a particular player with a big contract? What are the future dollars available if a new CBA is negotiated?
Both parties have other items to consider as well with NHL negotiating a new American TV contract in 2021. With the NHL expanding and TV ratings slightly up, and more streaming opportunities, the NHL may be in for its biggest TV deal ever.
How will the RFA system change? After 2021-22 the following ELC’s in the Islanders system will expire Noah Dobson, Oliver Wahlstrom, Bode Wilde, Simon Holmstrom. That could be a lot
The New Building at Belmont
The Isles are tentatively scheduled to open at Belmont during the 2021-2022 season. As noted above that is the same year the current CBA expires. As fans we always want our teams to be contending but I believe that the Islanders have no choice but to start that season at Belmont as a serious Stanley Cup contender, and that requires important player additions in the next two years.
When the Islanders step on the Ice for the first time at Belmont the current group of players will obviously be two years older. A top player such as Josh Bailey will be 31 years old and under contract and, in fact, most of the offensive core will be under contract that first year at Belmont except for Casey Cizikas.
The Isles are better off contractually wise on defense. Johnny Boychuck and Nick Leddy will be in the last year of their current deals when Belmont opens, as will Thomas Hickey, who I believe he will be traded long before then. Their young D corps is in good shape and I would assume that Lou will have contracts in place for them.
I just can’t see a scenario where the Isles go into their first season at Belmont without a plan to seriously contend for the cup. Goes back to point one, how does Lou navigate an aging team and a new building and a potential new CBA.
What Will the Owners, Players, and the NHL do?
The NHL has another worry as they head into 2021-2022. Not only are the Islanders opening a new building, but Seattle also starts playing that year in theirs and if the Vegas Golden Knights showed anything, there will be a lot of interest in the league and the new Seattle team.
The expansion draft to fill Seattle’s roster will also be interesting as teams and the NHL have to deal with player contracts that may be renegotiated. If a new CBA is not completed or extended early, Seattle and the rest of the league could be dealing with new rules after Seattle’s first season. Could be a public relations nightmare for the league and the NHL.
I would think that the NHL and NHLPA come to some type of agreement and amend the current CBA, maybe extend it out two to three years. The players hate escrow and the owners want a bigger percentage of the profits and a change to the RFA system, but everyone is making money and no side wins if they get to another lockout or strike.
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All told the Islanders have a lot to consider. The best thing they have going for them is a GM who has been down this road before and usually sees the big picture.