The New York Islanders, along with a handful of other NHL teams, will be facing some serious number-crunching after details of an extension of the collective bargaining agreement were leaked. With the NHLPA expected to ratify the terms of the new deal by the end of Friday, there will be no compliance buyouts and the salary cap will remain frozen for the next two seasons.
Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello will have his work cut out for him as he navigates a new and uncertain time. The league and its economic structure was thrown into chaos by the coronavirus, and all will have to adjust to a bumpy road ahead.
The Islanders have several players that are due for new contracts once the league finally can conclude its 2019-20 season. The good news is that three of them don’t control their own destiny, as they are still in restricted status. Their only real option is to hold out, which, in most cases, never seems to work out well.
Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews are the three I am talking about, of course, and of the three, Toews should be the easiest to sign. Pulock should be considered a moderate difficulty with Barzal being the rough one. Lamoriello, from multiple sources, has not had any contact with the agents for the trio to date, but that should worry nobody, as he has said repeatedly, ‘If you have time, you use it’.
New York, per capfriendly, are projected to have approximately 10 million in free cap, with the only unrestricted free agent expected to even get a glimpse being Matt Martin. It's a safe bet that Derick Brassard, Tom Kuhnhackl, and even Andy Greene likely won’t be back. But, they still need a backup goaltender and that will eat a little into that available cap space as well. Mind you, this is with no additions to, I don’t know, make the team better? Younger?
Lamoriello might have to go the trade route to clear up some cash, taking back prospects or draft picks instead of established league players. Should he choose that as the most prudent path, here are three that could be shipped elsewhere.
Nick LeddyLeddy has been in almost every Islanders trade rumor over the past two seasons, with his play seemingly declining as he approaches age 30. From the tried and true ‘eye-test,’ we can all determine Leddy is not the same player as when he first arrived with the organization, and even though he seemed to play better this season, his friendly contract is what makes him so attractive. Never mind the fact he can still skate, and that is a valuable commodity in the new NHL. The Islanders have defensive depth and can clearly afford to make this move.
Leo KomarovHard to say whether this makes more sense than a regular buyout, where the Islanders would still be on the hook for some of Leo’s horrendous contract. But, he is still a team friendly presence in the locker room and could be a boom for a young, rebuilding team (Detroit?). You wouldn’t have to give up much of anything and could also pad your cap above the minimum threshold.
Thomas HickeyHickey had a tremendously rough season, both personally and professionally, but can still be a valuable third-pairing defenseman. With two years remaining at only $2.5 million, he could help many teams. He simply got caught up in a numbers game with the Islanders and once they decided to go the full-on Noah Dobson route, there simply wasn’t room anymore with the big club.
Notice I didn’t mention Andrew Ladd, and you’re probably scratching your head. While that has turned out to be Garth Snow’s worst signing of his Islanders career as general manager, a buyout does not help New York at all here, as most of Ladd’s contract is bonus related. Lamoriello has already worked magic once with Dion Phaneuf in Toronto, can he do it again here and get someone, anyone, to bite? I doubt it.
The league will continue to push forward with its plans to reopen and finish the 2019-20 season, ultimately crowning a champion and pushing the start of the 2020-21 season to early January. By that time, you can almost guarantee the Islanders will look a little different than they do today. But, will they be better?