The New York Islanders have a legit cap issue for 2020-2021. Here’s how they can clear some space and try to get more scoring.
The Islanders need scoring, that’s obvious when it comes to this team. The problem is with the flat cap, the Isles have very little wiggle room when it comes to adding players outside of retaining their own guys.
The Isles need to re-sign Ryan Pulock, Mathew Barzal, and Devon Toews. That’s a top pairing d-man, a top-line center, and a second pair defensemen. You can kiss at least $18 million, with that number likely closer to $20 million, of the cap goodbye.
That’s currently problematic because the Islanders have a projected $8.9 million in cap space right now. So there’s going to be some moving parts. Here’s my projection for how the Isles can make it work.
I’ll start with the RFA’s and free-agent signings:
I’m bringing Sebastian Aho back to be the Islanders seventh d-man. He gets a $100,000 raise as his role increases, which $800,000 is more than fair value for an extra defenseman. I’m re-signing Andy Greene as the sixth defenseman to play with Noah Dobson.
More on why he’ll be starting next year later in the article, but Greene was effective for the Islanders and a cheap $1.25 million deal should be enough to entice him to stay with his old pal Lou Lamoriello.
Mat Barzal and Ryan Pulock both get long-term deals. Getting both of these guys at a combined $14.5 million against the cap would be a huge get for Lou. They’re important pieces to the puzzle and need to be here long-term.
Due to age and experience, Toews gets a mid-level deal. He hasn’t really earned a super long-term extension (six-plus years) but he isn’t really a candidate for a short-term bridge deal again either. I think we see a four or five year deal between $4 million to $4.5 million per year.
Now we have to clear some cap space. Johnny Boychuk is a cap dump to Ottawa who is looking to tread water for the foreseeable future. Their owners don’t have a ton of money so a player like Boychuk who carries a $6 million cap hit but will only have to be paid $5.25 million over the two years if the Isles trade him after paying him his signing bonus for 2020-2021 is enticing.
Seeing Boychuk go would hurt, but the Isles don’t really have a role for him with Ryan Pulok, Scott Mayfield, and Noah Dobson on the right side.
The Isles, who are low on draft capital after the JG Pageau trade, get some back moving on from Nick Leddy. A second and a mid-round pick seems to make sense as L.A. needs to rebuild that d-core and Leddy could use a fresh start.
The last move is to acquire some LTIR space. The Isles free themselves of Leo Komarov, thank God, and acquire Dubinsky’s deal to go on LTIR for the year to help the cap for 2020-2021 (more on that from Mitch later this week).
Here’s my lineup for the Islanders after the trades and free agent signings. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough to sign a Mike Hoffman or reunite Lou Lamoriello with Kyle Palmieri but I did give both Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom a chance.
Both are first-round picks, Bellows from 2016 and Wahlstrom from 2018. Putting Kieffer Bellows with a do-it-all forward like JG Pageau and a vet like Jordan Eberle is the perfect way to get production from a third line that’s been inconsistent over the past couple of years.
As for Oliver Wahlstrom, I’m putting a ton of stock into him and I’m fine with that. Wahlstrom’s shot is deadly. See here:
Playing him with Mat Barzal should set up a ton of offensive opportunities for him. That’s his strength, I don’t really care about his defense yet that can develop. Let Anders Lee go get pucks around the boards and take space up in front of the net with Wahlstrom and Barzal going to town creating havoc on the outside.
Michael Dal Colle is a cheap option for the fourth line that frankly provides slightly more offensive upside on the line that what Martin did. Yes, the line won’t be the same but I don’t see how you can bring Martin back again with the cap situation and Dal Colle is fine as a fourth-liner right now.
Here’s a look at my scratches on a nightly basis:
Is this a perfect roster, no, it’s also a little risky relying on the younger kids in big spots but they don’t have a choice. In a capped league you have to be able to get value on ELC’s and right now their best shot at success is doing just that with Noah Dobson, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Kieffer Bellows.
Hopefully, one, if not both of Bellows and Wahlstrom turn into 20+ goal scorers, if so maybe that sniper for the power play might not be as necessary as we may think. This roster leaves the Islanders with $2.27 million in cap space.
Want your voice heard? Join the Eyes On Isles team!
Here’s a link to the full CapFriendly Armchair GM. There will be many more of these this offseason.