Islanders: Taking Advantage Of Buffalo Sabres Rebuild
By Matt O'Leary
The Buffalo Sabres fired GM, Jason Botterill and it’s clear they’re looking to rebuild. This is where the Islanders need to come in.
On Tuesday, the Buffalo Sabres fired 22 people in their front office, including General Manager Jason Botterill. It’s abundantly clear that this team is looking to rebuild as they haven’t made the playoffs since the 2010-2011 season.
As great as it would be for the Islanders to go out and try to pry away a Jack Eichel via trade, as the Sabres hit the reset button, that seems extremely unlikely. While Eichel might not be able to be had, maybe Sam Reinhart could be acquired via trade.
Reinhart is 24 years old and has been a regular in the NHL for five years. His point total over that span has been 43, 47, 50, 65, and 50. If the season continued and he played a full 82 games, Reinhardt was on pace for 59 points.
As a right-handed shot, Reinhart could be a nice wing addition for the Isles who desperately need some help, especially on that right side. With the cap situation, it’s not going to be an easy fix but let’s see if we can make it work.
In this game, let’s assume Mathew Barzal signs for eight-years $9 million AAV, Ryan Pulock, six-years $5.5 million AAV, and Devon Toews five-years $4.5 million AAV. That’s a combined $19 million.
We have to take into consideration what the Islanders would have to give up in a trade for Reinhart as well.
The Islanders are giving up someone who was on pace for 47 points in Anthony Beauvillier and a forward prospect in Kieffer Bellows who was a first-round pick in 2016 and the Isles don’t have a ton of room for him on the depth chart.
Let’s operate under the assumption that Reinhart, an RFA, signs for something like $6 million AAV over six-years. That would put the Islanders at roughly $9.41 million over the cap according to CapFriendly.
The Isles would have to go back to the trade board in order to free up more room to make it work. Johnny Boychuk, at $6 million for two more years is one that makes a lot of sense. If the Isles wait until after paying out his signing bonuses before moving him, some team would only be on the hook for $1.25 million owed for 2020-2021 but they’d receive a $6 million cap hit.
So let’s say something like this:
The Isles essentially move up from the fourth round to the third round while freeing themselves of the Johnny Boychuk contract. Boychuk would be able to play regular minutes in Ottawa which he likely wouldn’t get with the Islanders.
Now, we’re back down to $3.41 million over the cap. The next step would be getting Andrew Ladd’s contract off the books. You’re going to need a team with a ton of cap space that’s looking for picks to rebuild.
The Detroit Red Wings have entered the chat. The Red Wings are looking to rebuild, and adding another first-rounder giving them eight picks in the first two rounds over the next two years would be huge.
This trade puts the Isles under the cap threshold by $2.1 million which would be able to squeeze in Ilya Sorokin’s ELC/potential bridge contract. Yes, this also leaves the Islanders without picks in the first two rounds for two straight years. Not ideal, but they need an improvement somehow.
Their 2020-2021 lineup could look something like this:
Bailey – Barzal – Reinhart
Lee – Nelson – Eberle
Koivula – Pageau – Wahlstrom
Komarov – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
Pelech – Pulock
Toews – Mayfield
Leddy – Dobson
Extras: Hickey, Dal Colle, Johnston
The Isles would be relying on the cheap cap hits of Otto Koivula, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Noah Dobson to make this work. It’s going against what we’ve seen for the last two years but eventually, the Isles are going to have to transition away from some of these veterans.
Josh Bailey, Mat Barzal, Sam Reinhart, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, and JG Pageau were all on pace for 50+ point seasons before the COVID Shutdown. This lineup, as opposed to the one that has been thrown out there this season, should in theory produce more offense which is exactly what the Islanders need.
Want your voice heard? Join the Eyes On Isles team!
It’s not going to be easy for the Islanders to add to what they have, heck it’s going to be hard to even maintain it going into next year, but prying away talent from a rebuilding Buffalo can be the trick to get this roster better.