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Islanders: Why taxi squad won’t be huge salary cap tool

EDMONTON, ALBERTA - SEPTEMBER 13: The New York Islanders leave the ice after their 4-1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on September 13, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
EDMONTON, ALBERTA - SEPTEMBER 13: The New York Islanders leave the ice after their 4-1 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place on September 13, 2020 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders aren’t likely going to be one of those teams using the taxi squad to accrue cap space in 2021.

With the creation of a 4-6 man taxi squad for the 2021 NHL season, some teams are exploring how to use that extra squad to create cap space down the road. The New York Islanders aren’t likely to be one of those teams.

We know the Islanders are up close to the salary cap with only $3.905 million in space under the firm salary cap ceiling. We also know that the taxi squad will be an extension of the AHL, players placed on the taxi squad could have up to $1.075 million of their cap hit buried.

So moving guys like Andrew Ladd, Leo Komarov, and Thomas Hickey to the taxi squad is likely, but that’s not new. All three were likely destined for the AHL even without taxi squads. With all three off the books, the Islanders would only have $7.13 million with the $3.905 million they currently have.

That might be enough to sign Mathew Barzal, but it won’t be enough for Barzal and a few depth players like Martin and Greene. At some point, the Islanders are going to need some of Johnny Boychuk’s LTIR money in order to stay under the salary cap. Which takes away the last advantage of the taxi squad: accrued salary.

LTIR? Then, no accrual

Honestly, I wasn’t familiar with accrued salary or how it worked for the cap. So I asked the people over at Puck Pedia for some help.

Here’s what I asked them and their answer:

How can a team like the Islanders take advantage of the taxi squad for their salary cap issue? I saw that you wrote teams will likely sit with 20 players on the roster, why is that and would that work for the Isles with so few waiver exempt players?

"So in general, a team would go with 20 guys to keep the cap hit low and accrue space. The cap hit is based on the roster on a certain day, so the less players on the roster, the less total cap hit for that day, and therefore the less cap hit for the year. The exception would be if they’re worried about losing a guy on waivers*, then a team might not want to go down to 20. The other exception is for LTIR teams, you don’t accrue cap space during LTIR, so if the Islanders are cap compliant using LTIR with say 22 on roster, it doesn’t really do anything for them to go down to 20"

*The Islanders only have two players that are exempt from waivers: Ilya Sorokin and Noah Dobson.

The Islanders aren’t likely going to be one of those teams with a 20-man roster with a few guys on the taxi squad that will move on and off in an attempt to create more accrued cap space. Accrued cap space can be used later in the year. Because they can’t on account of using LTIR space to stay compliant.

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If you’re looking to find out more about taxi squads as well as any of the rules for the 2021 season read this fantastic guide from Puck Pedia.

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