NY Islanders banking on sharp increases in salary cap with new deals

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

You know what happens when you assume.

That isn't stopping Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello from making a similar type of assumption that got the New York Islanders in trouble in recent seasons as the NHL salary failed to rise in line with expectations when the team handed out long-term contracts.

“We’re in this position because of what happened with assumptions - it’s a real bad word - of where the cap would be, said Lamoriello at his end-of-the-season availability. "So some of the signings that we made three years ago, we would not have done because, in your planning, you also know what the progression will be and can be because of where the revenues are going.”

Of course, there were extraordinary circumstances that forced the salary cap to remain stagnant in recent seasons. Things should be different this time around. The understanding coming of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is that the max the cap can go up in any one year is five percent, which could be conservative. If that happens, as expected, the salary cap will be the following over the next three seasons:

  • 2023-24: $83.5 million
  • 2024-25: $87.7 million
  • 2025-26: $92.1 million

After Saturday's very long-term signings of Pierre Engvall and Scott Mayfield and, to a lesser extent Ilya Sorokin, Lamoriello is banking on each of these players playing to or exceeding their new AAV in the early years of the contract. Even if their play levels off or takes a step back, the AAV will be reasonable considering where the salary cap is five, six, or seven years later if the salary cap raises annually based on current projections.

While others teams could be paying higher AAVs for players, the Islanders could reap the benefits of locking in a number of their depths players, like Engvall, Mayfield and Casey Cizikas to AAVs more aligned to today's market rates based on the financially flexibility of most NHL teams.

As such, the very thing Lamoriello is being criticized for could become a reason for the Islanders having more, not less, cap space to play with in future years because they won't have to shop in aggressive market for players like Engvall and Mayfield. Fingers crossed for Lamoriello and the organization that the assumptions being made this time come to fruition.