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Islanders options for creating cap space in 2020-21 season

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)
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What options do the New York Islanders have to create cap space for 2020-21?

There’s no question that the New York Islanders are going to need to create space on the salary cap in order to re-sign their pending RFAs (Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews).

The Isles have just over $3 million in cap space and are looking at $12.6 million of cap space in 2020-21. That’s not likely to be enough space to sign all three RFA’s let alone any other contract the Isles might bring in to fill gaps in the roster.

The salary cap isn’t going up this year (and maybe not for a few years), so that won’t bail them out either. The Isles will have to get creative. Here are a few options they could use.

Trade

It’s the first option that typically comes to mind because it’s the one that could technically free up the most cap space. The team the Isles trade with could take a big contract off the Islanders books while giving the Isles draft picks, prospects, or future considerations in return.

The obvious pitfall to this suggestion is who in the NHL has space to take on some of the contracts the Isles are looking to shed? Very few teams will have the room to take Andrew Ladd‘s $5.5 million cap hit for the next three years or Johnny Boychuk‘s $6 million cap hit for the next two seasons.

There’s also the fact that some of these guys, like Johnny Boychuk, have no-trade clauses.

Guys like Nick Leddy, who carries a $5.5 million cap hit and does not have trade protection. He could interest a few teams to send some draft picks the Isles way for the two-way defender.

Regular Buyout

The regular buyout window in the NHL starts either June 15 or 48 hours after the Cup final is over, whichever is later and concludes on June 30th. We know that the cup won’t be awarded by June 30th so that window will be pushed back to some time in the future.

Teams can get a lower cap hit if they buy out a player’s deal. How much of that player’s deal is cleared out depends on a number of factors like: number of years left, salary, age of the player at the time of the buyout, etc. Check out CapFriendly’s Buyout FAQ to know more.

But a buyout wouldn’t help the Isles much. Here’s how much the Isles would save in 2020-21 if they used regular buyout on a few players:

  • Johnny Boychuk: $833,333 in savings
  • Andrew Ladd: $666,667 in savings
  • Leo Komarov: $916,667 in savings
  • Cal Clutterbuck: $1,666,667 in savings

As you can see, they save very little in 2020-21 if they use a regular buyout on some of these guys.

LTIR

We saw the Toronto Maple Leafs do this to get around the cap last season. By using contracts on LTIR, teams can go over the salary cap.

In 2019-20, the Leafs were using $13.678 million in LTIR space with deals like David Clarkson and Nathan Horton. The Isles could do the same.

The Leafs sent Garret Sparks to Vegas for David Clarkson’s deal. Maybe the Isles contact Arizona to get the last year of Marian Hossa‘s deal ($5.275 million AAV)?

Bury in AHL

Teams can send players to the AHL, and if they pass waivers, a certain portion of their deal is “buried” in the AHL.

For 2020-21 a total of $1.075 million can be buried in the NHL. Meaning if they send Andrew Ladd to the AHL, the Islanders would get $1.075 in cap relief, or a reduced $4.425 million cap hit.

Compliance/Amnesty Buyout

Compliance (or Amnesty) buyouts are the best option. As long as the NHL allows them to take place.

Because of the 2012-13 lockout and a cap that didn’t rise as expected, teams were allowed to use two compliance buyouts. One after the 12-13 season and another after the 13-14 season.

These buyouts work just like a regular buyout, the only difference is they don’t count towards the cap at all. If the NHL allowed them to return for 2020-21 (because of the flat cap) the Islanders could use this to shake free of a few big-money deals and make enough space for their RFAs.

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