The Five Best Contracts On The NY Islanders' Roster

New York Islanders v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five
New York Islanders v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Five / Jaylynn Nash/GettyImages
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There's been a lot of talk lately about bad contracts surrounding the NY Islanders. GM Lou Lamoriello had to spend draft picks to move Josh Bailey's contract, and Eyes On Isles published an article by Niko Scarlatos just yesterday about the worst contracts remaining on the team.

But sometimes, it's good to look at the bright side. Social media can often be very pessimistic, particularly about sports (and, well, everything else), but the Islanders have some very good contracts. Today, I want to look at the best contracts on the roster.

When ranking contracts, I tried to take into account both the money (average annual value, or AAV) and the term. A long-term contract can be good value if the AAV is low, but also risks becoming a Bailey/Ladd-like anchor on the team if the player will be old by the end of it. On the other hand, for a young player entering their prime, long-term contracts are generally a good way to lock down a player for a while.

So, without further ado, here are the five best contracts on the Isles' roster:

Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders
Toronto Maple Leafs v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

5. Adam Pelech - 6 years, $5.75m AAV

Anyone who doesn't watch the Islanders much will probably think this contract is an overpayment. $5.75 million for a player with just 21 points in 61 games? That doesn't sound very good.

But if you regularly watch the team, you know just how good Adam Pelech is. He's the top shutdown guy you can depend on to put in 21-22 minutes per game against the opponents' best players. He kills penalties and is unbelievably good at preventing zone entries. Just for fun, here's a compilation from 2021 of him shutting down rush chances:

Advanced stats support what every Isles fan already knows: Pelech is really, really good. This season, when Pelech was on the ice at 5v5, the Islanders scored 54% of the goals and 53% of the expected goals, even though he started only 26.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone (compared to 35% in the neutral zone and 38.5% in the defensive zone).

His contract is relatively cheap, given how much value he provides. He scored more points per game than fellow shutdown defensemen Esa Lindell and Vladislav Gavrikov, as both make more money ($5.8m/year and $5.875m/year, respectively). Some other more expensive defensemen include Nate Schmidt, Jonas Brodin, and Tyler Myers. He makes just about $500,000/year more than Rasmus Ristolainen.

Of course, I'm cherry-picking a little. There are undoubtedly defensemen around Pelech's salary who are similarly good value, and I don't want to suggest that he's an absolute steal. But for what he brings to the table, Pelech's contract is pretty low. And at only 28 years old, it could be a steal to have him locked up long-term. He'll be 34 when this contract expires, meaning he'll be signed cheaply throughout his prime.

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins
New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins / Justin Berl/GettyImages

4. Sebastian Aho - 1 year, $825k AAV

The only reason this contract isn't higher on this list is because it's only one more year. After that, he'll be an unrestricted free agent, and if the Islanders plan to re-sign him, they'll have to give him a well-deserved raise. But purely for next year, this might be the best value contract on the team.

For a while, Sebastian Aho was the seventh defenseman who'd be healthy-scratched upwards of 50 times per season. He had potential, but the flashes of offensive talent didn't make up for the inconsistency and poor defensive-zone play.

Then, all of a sudden, he became a very strong two-way defenseman who was not just adequate, but actively good, at defense. He scored 23 points last season, which isn't particularly many, but stood strong in his own end. While he was on the ice, the Islanders gave up 28 shots per 60 minutes (second-fewest among Isles' defensemen, behind only Pelech) and 2.41 expected goals per 60 (fewest on the Islanders).

He's not an elite shutdown defenseman like Pelech is. But he became a dependable two-way guy, used more regularly as the year went on, and for only $825k, it's a very team-friendly deal.

Montreal Canadiens v New York Islanders
Montreal Canadiens v New York Islanders / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

3. Hudson Fasching - 2 years, $775k AAV

Raise your hand if you'd never heard of Hudson Fasching before this season. I certainly hadn't.

During five NHL seasons before this year, Hudson Fasching played a total of 38 NHL games, scoring three points. He was signed to be AHL depth, an afterthought on a list of signings including Dennis Cholowski and Paul LaDue. He played the preseason with the rest of the AHL depth and was, predictably, sent down to Bridgeport before the season started. He didn't play an NHL game until December.

But when he was finally called up due to injury, he forced his way into the lineup permanently. Fans began to notice his tenacious, grinding style, which fit perfectly with eventual linemates Zach Parise and J-G Pageau. The points weren't there, but it didn't matter - he played the right way.

Eventually, though, the points started coming. After the injury to Mat Barzal, Fasching stepped up his game, finishing the year with 13 points, including seven goals, in his final 22 games. He was a huge part of the Isles' playoff push and a major reason they snuck into the playoffs despite Barzal's injury.

Fasching is generally pretty good at everything. He scores some points, he forechecks, he hits hard. He didn't play much on the penalty kill this year, but it's easy to imagine him taking that role in the future, especially as Josh Bailey is no longer with the team, Zach Parise is contemplating retirement, and Cal Clutterbuck is getting older.

I considered putting Fasching higher on this list, I really did. But I think the remaining two are pretty hard to argue with.

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders - Game Six
Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders - Game Six / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

2. Ilya Sorokin - 1 year, $4m AAV, then 8 years, $8.25m AAV

It seems insane to put a contract over $8 million in a "best value" list, but Ilya Sorokin is worth it. Goalies are a very strange group - every year, there's a goalie who breaks out and looks like he'll be elite for a while, then fades back into being just mediocre-to-good. Carter Hart. Jacob Markstrom. Philipp Grubauer. Jordan Binnington. You get the picture.

And then there are the goalies that stay good forever and singlehandedly give their teams a chance to win every single night. There aren't many of those - the old guard of Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, Ben Bishop, Marc-Andre Fleury, etc., are all either retired or well past their prime. Who's taken their place?

In my opinion, there are only four goalies who belong to this elite class - Andrei Vasilevskiy, Igor Shesterkin, Linus Ullmark, and, of course, Sorokin. (Jake Oettinger is likely to join this class soon enough, but it's too early to be sure, and Juuse Saros and Connor Hellebuyck's stats never quite seem to match their reputations.)

Over the last three seasons (since Sorokin joined the league), among goalies who have played at least 100 games, Sorokin ranks second in save percentage (.924) and second in GAA (2.33), behind only Ullmark in both categories (and yes, that means he's ahead of Shesterkin, Vasilevskiy, and everyone else you might be thinking of). He has 16 shutouts during this period, leading the league.

Last season, Sorokin finished second in the league with 36.2 goals saved above average (GSAA, a metric used to see how much better or worse a goalie is than average, given the number of shots he faces), behind only Ullmark. In goals saved above expected (GSAx, a measure similar to GSAA but taking into account shot location and quality), he led the league with 51.3.

There's no doubt that $8.25 million is a lot of money. Only three goalies will make more than that next year - Price, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Vasilevskiy. (Keep in mind, Sorokin will only be making $4m next year - his new contract doesn't kick in until the 2024-25 season.) But - and people might not agree with this, but the stats are unequivocal - Sorokin is better than all three of those, including Vasilevskiy.)

We don't know what the market for elite goalies looks like. Here's a look at the contract status of those who I consider to be the best goalies in the league (we're using Sorokin's new contract to make the point clearer):



Cap Hit

Years Left

Connor Hellebuyck




Jake Oettinger




Juuse Saros




Igor Shesterkin




Ilya Sorokin




Linus Ullmark




Andrei Vasilevskiy




Aside from Sorokin and Vasilevskiy, none of the elite goalies are signed long-term. In two years, when the salary cap could be above $90 million, how much will Shesterkin, Ullmark, Oettinger, and Saros get? I'm willing to bet it'll be more than Sorokin, and maybe a lot more. This contract is going to be an absolute steal for a very long time. And yes, Sorokin will be 36 at the end of it, but that's okay. Goalies stay good for longer than skaters do.

New York Islanders v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Two
New York Islanders v Carolina Hurricanes - Game Two / Jaylynn Nash/GettyImages

1. Brock Nelson - 2 years, $6m AAV

If you ask a non-Islanders fan who the Isles' best offensive player is, the answer you'll get will probably be either Mat Barzal or Bo Horvat. But the real answer might be Nelson, who scored 36 goals and 75 points this season, leading the team in both categories and scored 37 goals the year before, also leading the team. In fact, he's led the Islanders in goals for four years in a row.

When Nelson was on the ice at 5v5 this season, the Islanders scored 61% of the goals - third-best behind Oliver Wahlstrom and Barzal. Almost as importantly, he was one of the only bright spots of a terrible power play, leading the team in power play goals and finishing third in power play assists.

For $6 million, this is excellent value. Six forwards will have cap hits of exactly $6 million next year: Nelson, Taylor Hall, Mats Zuccarello, Nikolaj Ehlers, Jake Guentzel, and Ondrej Palat. Nelson had more points than any of the others and more goals than any except Guentzel, who he tied. Looking slightly further, of the 19 forwards with cap hits between $5.75m and $6.25m, Nelson is tied for the second-most goals (behind just Mark Scheifele) and had the second-most goals (behind Evgeni Malkin).

The Islanders always seem to have a problem with spending just a little too much money on middle-six forwards who don't score enough goals. Brock Nelson is the opposite of that problem. For $6 million, he's provided two consecutive 35+ goal seasons, and he's showing no signs of slowing down.

As a bonus for making it to the end of this article, here's Brock Nelson winning the NHL All-Star Game accuracy shooting competition.