Many teams are facing troubling cap situations over the next two seasons (assuming the CBA passes and the cap freezes at $81.5MM). Count the New York Islanders among the troubled.
Though they don’t have any exorbitant deals, the Islanders have a whole host of contracts in the $3-6MM range. With $71.38MM already committed to their roster for next season, there’s a decent likelihood that GM Lou Lamoriello will have to let all their pending unrestricted free agents walk, per The Athletic’s Arthur Staple. That would mean Matt Martin, Derick Brassard, Tom Kuhnhackl, Andy Greene, and Thomas Greiss all hitting the open market. Then again, with many teams facing this crunch, free agents may face a depressed market, potentially allowing teams to grab some bargain short-term deals.
- Greiss is probably the biggest on-ice contributor from that group, though if all goes well, Ilya Sorokin could join the club and take on that role. Martin might be the bigger loss in a spiritual sense. Despite a two-year hiatus in Toronto, Martin has spent nine years in New York, and his grinding style of play has made him popular among the locals. He’s also the most likely to return, as the fourth-liner may not command a whole lot in free agency after marking 0.4 point shares this season.
- The bigger issue, Staples writes, is with the Islanders restricted free agents: namely, Mathew Barzal. Just two years removed from winning the Calder Trophy, Barzal is in line for a hefty raise, even if he settles for a bridge contract. With Ryan Pulock, Devon Toews, and potentially Sorokin (more on this later) also restricted free agents, the Islanders will look to shed a contract or two to free up enough money to keep these central young players in the fold. The team has been resistant to trading Nick Leddy, but his $5.5MM could be rerouted to players more likely to play key roles moving forward. Leddy remains a viable blueliner, and though they’re not likely to return a significant asset for him, New York can get out from under his contract if they need the money. Another former Blackhawk, Andrew Ladd, would be another trade piece, but at 35-years-old and with only 30 games played over the last two seasons, they’re not likely to find a taker for the veteran forward – nor can they get any savings from buying him out. More likely for Ladd, Staples notes, is landing on the long-term injured reserve, which would allow the Islanders to go over the cap by $5.5MM.
- Even though signing Sorokin now will burn his one year ELC, the Islanders are probably going to do so anyway to get him in the fold, writes Staple in another piece. It will make him a restricted free agent for next season, but the Islanders appear ready to bring him in to start working with their coaches. Since the KHL doesn’t typically allow opt-outs, New York would rather bring him in and have him ready for next season rather than lose him to the KHL for another season.