As of now heading into the next off-season, the New York Islanders will not be in the same cap crunch as the previous two years.
Captain Cap Crunch
During these last two off-seasons, Lamoriello had to work the phones and squeeze every dollar he could to bring back as many of his free agents as possible (both restricted & unrestricted). Even though Lou and the front office did a stellar job they were not able to keep everyone.
Late last summer after the Isles had their run in the bubble, they had to move Devon Toews to make their cap work. This off-season the Isles had to trade Nick Leddy, expose and lose Jordan Eberle to Seattle in Expansion, and trade away valuable draft picks so Arizona would take Andrew Ladd and his cap hit off their hands.
The good news is next off-season the Isles will find themselves with some flexibility in regards to their salary cap.
Next summer the Isles have a number of veteran players becoming unrestricted free agents led by Cal Clutterbuck and Leo Komarov. In addition, the NHL Salary Cap will be going up a whopping $1 million dollars next season. Hey, you take anything you can get.
However, Johnny Boychuk’s contract will end after this season and so will the ability for the Islanders to extend beyond the cap by $6 million.
When you factor all of that in plus the soon-to-be-announced one-year contracts of Zach Parise and Travis Zajac the net result from all these deals less the loss of the Boychuk LTIR extension would be $7.25 million cap relief for the blue and orange.
Pulock (turns 27 in early October) has a $5 million cap hit for this year and becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season. Locking up Pulock now seems like a wise move for the Isles. Have to figure Pulock cap hit on his new deal will have an AAV between $6.75 – $7.5 million.
Dobson will be a restricted free agent after this season and coming off his entry-level contract that has an AAV of 894K. The most likely scenario is Dobson will go on a bridge deal that will have an AAV of $2.5 – $3 million.
Let’s assume resigning both Pulock & Dobson will mean an increase to the Islanders’ cap of $4.25 million annually. That would leave the Islanders with roughly $3 million in cap space to fill out the rest of their roster.
The Isles could bring back Clutterbuck on a 1-year deal after this season as long as he shows he is still effective and healthy. The cost on that would probably be a little over $1 million and will keep the vaulted fourth line intact another year.
Next off-season other than making sure the Islanders get Pulock locked up (which could happen before that) should be a drama-free summer for the Isles.