Another day is passing and patience is wearing thin amongst the New York Islanders faithful as they await news of a new signing or trade (or any news whatsoever) to fill the glaring holes that remain in the lineup. According to Cap Friendly, the Islanders currently have just north of $11 million in cap space before the anticipated new contracts for Noah Dobson, Alexander Romanov, and Kieffer Bellows.
As the organization is pushed up against the salary cap ceiling, it is difficult not to look back at certain contracts and how they are currently affecting the Islanders' pursuit of some top free agents.
Josh Bailey's contract, along with his game in general, has been scrutinized by the fan base for years. Bailey still has two years remaining on his current contract with $5 million counting against the cap. Because of the remaining term, the Islanders could likely ship Bailey and his contract elsewhere if it became necessary.
Another contract that wouldn't be as easy to move and could be negatively impacting the Islanders' current and suture-free agent pursuit, is that of Jean-Gabriel Pageau. When Pageau was acquired from the Ottawa Senators on deadline day in 2020, GM Lou Lamoriello inked the center to a six-year, $30 million deal shortly after the trade was announced.
Pageau immediately became a favorite amongst the fans beginning with his first game in the blue and orange. Pageau scored a goal in his debut against the New York Rangers and stepped up a weight class or two in a fight with Jacob Trouba, after a high hit on Michael Dal Colle.
And how could we forget the first round in the Toronto bubble against the Florida Panthers? Again, stepping up above his weight class, Pageau threw the infamous fake punch at Brian Boyle, which had fans posting all over social media.
Nobody can argue against Pageau's extraordinary value to the Islanders franchise. He is an all-situation player who is paramount to the penalty kill and power play alike, all while maintaining his role as the catalyst of the third line. Pageau's play is not what is brought into question here, but instead the term and value of his contract.
At $5 million a season, Pageau's contract is one of the highest in the NHL among third-line centers. This past season, the Ottawa native posted 18 goals and 21 assists in 77 games. Very solid numbers for a third-line center, especially for one who is capable of eating up minutes in important moments of the game.
If we look to compare the contract of Pageau against those of other third-line centers around the league with similar numbers, there is one glaring difference. Pageau's contract.
Fredrick Gaudreau of the Minnesota Wild finished this campaign with 14 goals and 30 assists - slightly better than those of Pageau. Gaudreau and Pageau are the same age as well, yet, Gaudreau is entering the final year of a two-year deal carrying only a $1.5 million AAV.
Maybe the best comparison is that to the newly acquired New Jersey Devils center, Erik Haula. Haula is entering the final season of a two-year deal with an AAV of $2.375 million. Last season, with the Boston Bruins, Haula posted 18 goals to go along with 26 helpers.
Not only were Haula's season numbers similar to Pageau's, but their numbers for their careers are neck and neck. In 566 career games, Pageau has posted a line of 121-130-251, meanwhile, in 534 games, Haula has posted 112-128-240. Both are very similar, all situation centers, yet, Haula is making less than half of what Pageau is making per season, and is only two years older.
Now, after all that, this is not made to be a roast Pageau, or even advocacy to trade him. He is an integral part of the makeup of this team and always seems to show his best hand in the playoffs and against the Rangers. This is more of an indictment on the front office and how they are consistently overpaying in terms of money and term for middle-of-the-lineup players, which is damaging the organization's ability to afford top-tier talent.