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Analysis

Islanders, Finally, Have Cap Space – What Can They Do With It?

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Andrew Ladd #16 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Andrew Ladd #16 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders have made a huge move, trading Andrew Ladd and three draft picks to Arizona. They will receive nothing in return but free up $5.5 million of cap space for the next two seasons. This trade makes an enormous difference to the Isles’ offseason plans.

For a few years now, the Islanders have been in cap trouble. They’ve had to sacrifice players, most notably Devon Toews, in order to sign their current core, and haven’t been able to add much (Kyle Palmieri was only made possible by Anders Lee’s season-ending injury).

That all changes now. When Johnny Boychuk is moved to LTIR, the Islanders will have $18.1 million of cap space. I’ll look at two scenarios for what they can do with it.

Scenario 1: New York Islanders lose young forward to Seattle

In this scenario, I assume the Isles will protect Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey, leaving Seattle to take Kieffer Bellows, Michael Dal Colle, or Otto Koivula. I’ll go with Bellows for this scenario but those three are pretty interchangeable in terms of cap.

They need to sign three key RFAs – Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech, and Ilya Sorokin. Let’s say Beauvillier gets $4 million, Pelech gets $5 million, and Sorokin gets $3 million.

They also have to sign several other RFAs, including Michael Dal Colle and Otto Koivula among others. Most of those won’t count against the cap, but let’s say their three healthy scratches total about $3 million (Michael Dal Colle, Richard Panik, and Sebastian Aho, for example).

They’d then have over $5 million to fill one hole – 3rd line wing. I’d be very happy offering that money to Kyle Palmieri, and that’s a reasonable option, but it might make even more sense to give some to Casey Cizikas and move Leo Komarov back to his typical 3W spot.

If Cizikas takes a team-friendly $3 million contract, that leaves the Isles entire four lines exactly as they were last season before Lee got hurt. The defense stays the same too, except Leddy has been replaced by Samuel Bolduc (or Robin Salo or some other cheap defenseman). And, best of all, the Isles still have $2.3 million to play with.

It’s not actually $2.3 million, as they have to pay Andy Greene about $1.3 million in bonuses from last season, which unfortunately does count against the cap. But still, $1 million to spare is pretty good.

This scenario allows the Isles to bring back basically the same team from last year, and still have a bit of cap space. They won’t have improved much, but considering their previously terrible cap situation and the expansion draft, not getting worse is a huge win in my books.

Scenario 2: New York Islanders lose Jordan Eberle to Seattle

This is the more drastic scenario, and I’m not sure if it’s realistic, but here goes. Nobody said Lou Lamoriello is going to protect Jordan Eberle – he’s always a step ahead, and if exposing Eberle enables a bigger move, he’ll do it.

I’ll start by assuming that the beginning of Scenario 1 stays the same – the same contracts for Beauvillier, Pelech, Sorokin, and the other RFAs.

In this scenario, they’ll be saving up cap space for a superstar, so they probably won’t re-sign Casey Cizikas. Leo Komarov could move to the 4th-line center role, which he’s done occasionally when Cizikas is injured.

Komarov’s 3rd line spot could be filled by recent acquisition Richard Panik, or by Bellows or Dal Colle. Let’s say Panik takes the spot, and the three scratches are Bellows, Dal Colle, and Sebastian Aho.

This leaves the Islanders an incredible $8.46 million left, even after factoring in the Andy Greene bonuses. That could all be spent on a free agent, and coincidentally (or not coincidentally at all), Gabriel Landeskog reportedly wants a deal around $9 million and is interested in playing for the Isles.

The Islanders could conceivably offer Landeskog $8.4 million, which isn’t quite what he wants but is more than any other team will probably be able to.

Landeskog has been over 56% on faceoffs for two years in a row, so it’s possible he’d be the first-line center and Mat Barzal would move to the wing. It doesn’t really matter – a line of Lee-Landeskog-Barzal is amazing no matter who the center is.

In this scenario, the 2nd line stays the same (Beauvillier-Nelson-Bailey), and the defense stays the same except for Leddy being replaced by Bolduc, just like in Scenario 1. The third (Panik-Pageau-Wahlstrom) and fourth (Martin-Komarov-Clutterbuck) lines arguably get worse, but not much worse.

By the way, I used CapFriendly’s Armchair GM Simulator to make these projections and check my math. Feel free to check out Scenario 1 here, Scenario 2 here, or make your own scenario – I’d love to see what you come up with.

Which scenario do you prefer? Or maybe you’ve come up with your own scenario? Let me know on Twitter @BrianWeinberge7 or post a comment below.

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