Navigating the Salary Cap is probably one of the more important tasks for any general manager to have. Teams that can avert total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2017-18 season. This will focus more on those players who are integral parts of the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Cap Hit: $72,015,833 (under the $75MM Upper Limit)
The team had to be pleased with the first-year production from Beauvillier after he put up nine goals and 15 assists in 66 games. Granted, it could have been better, but for the former 2015 first-round pick who wasn’t even expected to make the team out of training camp last year, this was a solid start. He didn’t get off to much of a start early in the season, but by the end of the year, he put together a solid string of games along with linemates Ho-Sang and Lee. He will likely find himself on the team’s third line along with Ho-Sang to start the year.
Pulock, the team’s first-round pick in 2013, was one of the main reasons behind the offseason trade of Travis Hamonic. The talented defenseman was traded away for a first and two second-round picks with the idea of implementing Pulock into the team’s plans. Rumors are they intend to put Pulock onto the team’s power play and showcase his hard slapshot. He only played one game for New York last year and broke his foot after playing just 3:57 of ice time, but he showed off his skill with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, putting up 15 goals and 46 points in just 55 games.
Ho-Sang, the team’s first-round pick in 2014, only played 21 games last year for the Islanders, putting up four goals and six assists in that span. A full 82-game season should be able to demonstrate his long-term value to the franchise. Barzal still must make the team out of training camp, but is considered to be one of the top prospects in the game and should have every opportunity to win one of the center jobs, which is not a position of depth on the team. Barzal did see two games for the Islanders last year, but played most of the year for his junior team.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
F John Tavares ($5.5MM, UFA)
G Jaroslav Halak ($4.5MM, UFA)
F Nikolai Kulemin ($4.19MM, UFA)
F Josh Bailey ($3.3MM, UFA)
D Calvin de Haan ($3.3MM, UFA)
F Brock Nelson ($2.5MM, RFA)
F Jason Chimera ($2.25MM, UFA)
D Thomas Hickey ($2.2MM, UFA)
D Dennis Seidenberg ($1.25MM, UFA)
F Shane Prince ($850K, RFA)
F Stephen Gionta ($650K, UFA)
D Scott Mayfield ($625K, RFA)
F Alan Quine ($613K, RFA)
Obviously, the team’s future seems to hinge on where Tavares’ contract situation ends up. The team has high hopes they can re-sign their star forward, who has scored 235 goals for the franchise over eight season and is just about to turn 27 years old. The team that has watched several of their top players walk away in past years need to lock him up or, at the very least, trade him off for some talent in return. Losing Tavares would likely set the team back significantly and could play a role on whether some of the other pending free agents will come back next year.
The team will be forced to decide what they want to do with some of their regulars, including Bailey, de Haan and Hickey. Bailey, a first-round pick from 2008, has been around for nine years and while he consistently averages between 10 and 15 goals, he hit a personal high in assists last season, picking up 43 to put together a big season while playing with Tavares on the first line. With the addition of Eberle who is expected to play with Tavares, the team will likely demote Bailey to the second or even possibly the third line, which could suggest the team may not mind if he moves on in one year.
De Haan has proven to be a solid top-four presence on the blueline, but after signing a one-year deal this offseason, setting up unrestricted free agency next year, the team may decide to move on from him at some point, while Hickey hasn’t worked his way into the team’s top four. So it may be that many of the pending free agents will be allowed to leave to free up cap space, including Kulemin, Chimera and Seidenberg, along with some of the others above. That could free up a lot of cap room.
The team also will likely allow Halak to walk unless the veteran goaltender can produce a bounce-back season. After a couple of respectable seasons for New York, the 32-year-old’s production took a hit as he posted a 2.80 GAA in 27 games and then was demoted to finish the season in the AHL. He is back, but no one is quite sure what to expect for the veteran.
Perhaps the most important free agent (besides Tavares) will end up being from restricted free agent Brock Nelson, who should be asking for a big raise after three 20-goal seasons. Their 2010 first-round pick had 20 goals and 25 assists for the team last year, a career-high.
Two Years Remaining
Two of their core players will be up in two years. Both expected to be current linemates to Tavares on the team’s first line this year, both could be major free agents in two years. Depending on their continued success and what state the franchise is in, the Islanders will have to make some key decisions on them. Eberle will be 29, but was quite consistent with Edmonton, putting up four straight 20-goal seasons, while Lee, who will also be 29 in two years, broke out with a 34-goal performance last year. Both will likely command big money.
Three Years Remaining
G Thomas Greiss ($3.33MM, UFA)
Starting a three-year, $10MM deal this season, the team hopes to see Greiss take control of the net as the full-time starter this year. However, the 31-year-old goaltender must continue to put up good numbers. His performance last year, a 2.69 GAA and a .913 save percentage was just average. The hope is he can show everyone he can and should be a starter in this league.
Four Or More Years Remaining
D Johnny Boychuk ($6MM through 2021-22)
F Andrew Ladd ($5.5MM through 2022-23)
D Nick Leddy ($5.5MM through 2021-22)
F Cal Clutterbuck ($3.5MM through 2021-22)
F Casey Cizikas ($3.35MM through 2020-21)
D Adam Pelech ($1.6MM through 2020-21)
The team does have a number of long-term contracts and the team has put a lot of responsibility on those players, especially Boychuk who has been the leader of their defense for the last few years. At 34 years old, Boychuk has been a solid player alongside partner Leddy. Both are locked up for five more years. Boychuk’s biggest problem is injuries as he only played in 66 contests last season and has never played a full season in his career. Leddy has been more of an offensive sparkplug for the team and played even better once he was reunited with Boychuk. His 11 goals and 35 assists were career highs last year and at age 26, his contract looks like a good value.
The team signed Ladd to a long-term extension a year ago. The 31-year-old wing is a model of consistency, putting up at least 20 goals in six of the last seven years. Currently slated to take over duties on the second line, the team has high hopes he can continue those numbers.
The two contracts that don’t make as much sense are the long-term deals given to Clutterbuck and Cizikas, both back-six players, yet combined, the Islanders are giving them a little under $7MM combined for the next four (or five for Clutterbuck) years.
G Rick DiPietro (compliance buyout, so no cap hit; $1.5MM payments to be made until 2028-29.)
Retained Salary Transactions
Still To Sign
Best Value: Lee
Worst Value: Clutterbuck
The entire future of this franchise lands on the backs of management to convince Tavares to ink a long-term deal with the franchise. While finding a home for themselves is also a priority, the franchise should be stabilized if the 26-year-old veteran agrees to return next year. They have acquired the necessary scoring to surround him with top talent and have a young group of top forwards who can take that next step and provide that much needed depth. Without Tavares, the Islanders may have to settle for rebuilding once again.