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The Islanders Have Some Serious Free Agent Problems Coming Up, and it’s Not Just Tavares

As I write this, the New York Islanders are in the midst of dropping their third straight game, and none of them have been competitive. Fans are giving up hope, and calling for Garth Snow‘s head again. I’ve spent some time recently looking at the John Tavares free agent situation and noticed something that will not make Isles fans feel better, unless you want to take solace in the fact that this team will, by necessity, look different next year, regardless of what happens with Tavares.

Here’s the Isles large scale problem. They have a little over $40 million in contracts already counting against the salary cap for 2018-2019, but that only represents 12 players. Now, Bettman expects the cap to increase next year, which is somewhat good news, because the Islanders have some potential problems coming up.

As it stands right now, they have 8 pending UFAs and 5 pending RFAs.

UFA:

John Tavares

Josh Bailey

Nikolai Kulemin

Jason Chimera

Calvin deHaan

Thomas Hickey

Denis Seidenberg

Jaro Halak.

RFA:

Brock Nelson

Shane Prince

Alan Quine

Ryan Pulock

Scott Mayfield

See the problem here is even if Kulemin, Chimera and Seidenberg walk away, and my money is that they do unless Kulemin wants to sign a short term deal for much, much less money, you have a limited pot of money from which to sign not just your franchise player, but your second best player this year, 2 of your top 5 defensemen and a starting goalie. On the open market, Tavares could easily get a contract in the neighborhood of $10-11 million per year. Bailey could get $6-7, deHann could easily get $5.5-6, and starting goalies easily run you $6-7. There’s another $30 million in cap hits. And you only have 16 roster spots taken. Sign Hickey, and re-up Nelson, Pulock and Mayfield for 10% increases at the very least, and you’re tying up $7-8 million more, and only have 19 contracts. (If you’re keeping score where in the neighborhood of $72 – 74 million for those 19 contracts)

That can only mean that either they’re going to be a bunch of kids playing on ELC salaries next year, or some of these guys are not going to be signed. I know a lot of fans want to see a big splash trade to improve the Islanders defense this season, but the truth is the Islanders, lacking a definitive answer on Tavares and Bailey re-upping,  can’t really take on a big salary.

Personally, I see the offseason going one of two ways. Tavares comes back and the Isles hope for more improvement from their kids and keep the team relatively intact. Some role players get changed out but the core of the team is pretty much the same. Or, Tavares doesn’t sign, and the team turns into a full rebuild, again. I say that because if he doesn’t I think Bailey leaves as well, Halak is allowed to leave, and barring some big time free agent signing, the team has no choice but to turn it all over to the kids.

The bottom line is that unless Islander management can get some team to agree to take on some of these contracts, there’s not a lot of cap space to play around with in a trade. We’re going to find the Islanders fighting to create cap space next season, or become a cap-floor team again when everyone abandons ship. Either way, I don’t see where this team gets remarkably better next year.

Can we get anyone to take a Clutterbuck or Griess contract? I don’t know about that.

What do you think will happen? Where would you create cap space?

 

 

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