Islanders need to get creative if compliance buyout don’t happen

Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Without a compliance buyout, the New York Islanders will have to get creative in order to stay cap compliant for the 2020-21 NHL season.

The cap could very well stay flat for the 2020-21 season. It’s just another side-effect of suspending the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That puts teams, like the New York Islanders, who are close to the cap ceiling, in a tough position.

Going into 2020-21, the Islanders have $71.38 million committed to players. With a flat cap ceiling of $81.5 million, that leaves the Isles with $10.12 million in cap space. That’s not going to be enough room to sign Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews to extensions.

If compliance buyouts don’t happen for 2020-21, the Isles are going to be in a tough place and needing creative solutions.

No Space

The Isles RFA trio of Barzal, Pulock, and Toews is going to command somewhere between $15 million to $21 million in terms of cap hit to start the 2020-21 season. With $10.12 million in cap space, the Islanders are going to have to find between $4.88 million and $10.88 million in cap savings to just sign the trio.

My valuation assumptions for all three players are:

  • Mathew Barzal: $8-$10 million
  • Ryan Pulock: $4-$7 million
  • Devon Toews: $3-$5 million

And that still not considering the $925,000 AAV for Ilya Sorokin.

A compliance buyout for Andrew Ladd, for example, would get the Isles just under the cap ceiling, assuming the trio sign for my base level assumption. Anything more and the Islanders have to find more savings.

So even with a single compliance buyout, things are going to be tough for the Islanders.

Getting Creative

Trading Johnny Boychuk on July 2 (after a $2.75 million signing bonus needs to be paid) along with a compliance buyout is an idea.

Trading him would clear $6 million off the books for this and next season. The only problem is that Boychuk is a useful member of the Islanders defense core, even if he’s limited to a bottom pair role.

And is Noah Dobson ready to step into a full-time role? Better yet, are the Isles (as in Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz) ready to give Noah Dobson the chance to run full-time on the bottom pair if the Islanders can find a destination for Boychuk?

A team like the Ottawa Senators, who are going to have close to $40 million in cap space for the 2020-21 season could certainly use Boychuk’s cap hit, but low payout, on their roster. A 23 team modified no-trade list would further complicate things in any Boychuk trade.

And that doesn’t yet answer the question of how do the Islanders improve from last year? Keeping Barzal, Pulock, and Toews keeps the status quo but that doesn’t move the needle forward.

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This sounds alarmist, but what I’m trying to get out of this is that when hockey comes back, we are in for some interesting times as Lou looks to keep this team cap compliant and make improvements to the roster.