On the first day of NHL free agency, Lou Lamoriello locked up Ilya Sorokin to an 8-year extension, solidifying his under-thirty core for the next few years. The following players, who Lamoriello will look to build around, will remain Islanders for quite some time:
Mathew Barzal - 26 years old, $9.15 AAV through 2030-31
Bo Horvat - 28 years old, 8.5 AAV through 2030-31
Ryan Pulock - 28 years old, $6.15 AAV through 2029-30
Adam Pelech - 28 years old, 5.75 AAV through 2029-30
Noah Dobson - 23 years old, $4 AAV next 2 years & under team control for the next 4
Ilya Sorokin - 27 years old, $8.25 AAV beginning in 2024-25, through 2031-32
While Lamoriello has received a lot of criticism for the long-term deals given to Scott Mayfield and Pierre Engvall, having his under-thirty core either signed or under team control for the next several seasons is advantageous for the blue and orange.
Players to Build Around
With Lamoriello having his core set, he can build around this group and hopefully add new core players sooner rather than later. Internally, Oliver Wahlstrom and Alexander Romanov need big seasons, hoping to prove they should be included in this group. Romanov had a solid season last year, which he hopes to build on into a more successful 2023-24 season.
Wahlstrom, however, needs to stay healthy and be a consistent offensive player for the Islanders this season. He was drafted to be a goal scorer, which he has yet to do consistently. He has the talent, including a lethal shot, but needs to bring his full complement of skills together in order to work his way up the lineup.
On the other side of 30, additional long-term Islanders to consider are Brock Nelson and Anders Lee. Nelson turns 32 in October and is signed for two more years. As long as he keeps up his production, there is no doubt he will be signing one more deal with the Isles at age 34, finishing his career as an Islander. Lee is signed for another three years, keeping him with the team until he's 36.
It would be huge for the Islanders if any of the kids in the pipeline, starting with William Dufour, Matthew Maggio, and this year's 2nd-round pick Danny Nelson, become part of this under-thirty core over the next 2-3 years.
The NHL salary cap is projected to rise over the next few years. It has been reported that the cap is estimated to go up $4 million for the 2024-25 season and close to $5 million for the 2025-26 season.
This will most certainly increase players' salaries across the board. While salary's in the league continue to rise, the Isles will have their under-thirty group locked in (excluding Dobson) with their current AAVs for years to come. This could become a massive feather in the Islanders' cap moving forward.
Islander fans should feel good that their key under-thirty players will be donning the Islanders' crest on their sweaters for years to come.