Models giveth and models taketh away.
Last month, we wrote about how models, like those from Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic, were more bullish on the New York Islanders off-season than the prevailing narrative. You add full seasons of Bo Horvat and Pierre Engvall and subtract a declining Josh Bailey, and like magic, the Isles' had over eight goals added from last season.
However, another model focused on each team's contract efficiency paints a negative picture of the Islanders' present and an even worse outlook on their future. GM Lou Lamoriello's team earned a C-and ranked 27th of 32 NHL teams. When looking at the contract grades and surplus value calculations, it jumps out that two of the team's best players - Mathew Barzal and Horvat, are seen as having two of the three least efficient contracts amongst forwards.
It's less surprising when you see that the valuation is "dependent on term length, which will factor in progression and degradation based on age." Barzal ($9.15M) and Horvat ($8.5M) are both starting eight-year extensions next season and have the richest contracts on the team. The degradation on the Horvat deal really stands out at -13.4 million. The center turned 28 on Apr. 5 and will be 36 at the end of the contract. While Horvat may match or exceed his current value for a few years, the expectation is that he'll perform below his AAV for half of the contract.
The "best" or more most efficient Islanders contracts according to the model belong to Oliver Wahlstrom and Hudson Fasching due to their low AAVs that are at or near the league minimum.
Perhaps more interesting is how the model views the Islander defense. Despite criticism from a segment of the fanbase, Noah Dobson has the highest market value of any Islander at $7.1M due to his offensive output, while Ryan Pulock sits at $3.2M after regression in his offensive stats. Because Pulock's cap hit is $6.2M for the next six seasons, his surplus value is a negative $18M, the worst number on the roster.
While fans will balk at the model, its premise is rather consistent with the criticism of how the Islanders roster is currently constructed, which is overly reliant on older players with a significant amount of term left on their contracts. They'll need some of these contracts to perform closer to Brock Nelson, who, four years into his six-year extension, is outperforming its value rather than JG Pageau, whose offensive production has dipped since signing his long-term deals.
At some point, the roster will need an infusion of young, cheap players that can make an impact and also provide cap flexibility as some of these contracts end over the next 2-3 years.