What’s Next for the Islanders?

July 2, 2024
Posted in News
July 2, 2024 Sean Cuthbert

Sean Cuthbert spells out the reality of the Islanders cap situation after signing Mike Reilly and adding Anthony Duclair.

The New York Islanders had a busier July 1st than what we might have expected after what transpired at the NHL Draft.

The Islanders elected to make all of their selections rather than package picks in an effort to shed salary. In doing so, they padded a near-empty prospect pool with an unexpected eye on the future.

(For the sake of this exercise, we’re considering Maxim Tsyplakov’s $950k salary as part of the roster)

And so they entered free agency with just over 5.5 million dollars in cap space and a handful of Restricted Free Agent salaries still to be tucked under that cap ceiling. For Islander fans, it wasn’t unreasonable to curb expectations heading into free agent shenanigans.

“So before dreams of Shane Pinto being pried away from Ottawa can be realized, a salary of consequence needs to be moved simply to allow the Islanders to field that 23-man team.”

But here we are. Mike Reilly is back on a reasonable $1.25m contract and Anthony Duclair is now an Islander thanks to a very friendly four-year $14m deal ($3.5m AAV).

If the Islanders weren’t planning on improving their D-group, bringing back Reilly was vital for his puck-carrying prowess. He’ll continue to help the power play and should form a solid bottom-pairing with a healthy Scott Mayfield.

Duclair adds speed, scoring, and a top-six wing the Islanders were sorely lacking. And like Jeff Skinner would have (godspeed in Edmonton), Duclair keeps role players towards the deep end of the lineup.

What happens next?

The Islanders currently have twelve forwards, seven defensemen, and two goaltenders signed for their 23-man roster. That leaves two spots to fill (presumably forwards) with only $875k in cap space to do it.

That’s hardly enough to squeeze in one of those aforementioned RFA’s (let alone two) to round out the roster. So at the very least, salary must be shed just to fill out the squad for opening night.

Figure they’ll re-sign Holmstrom at around $1m per whether it’s his qualifying offer or not. Then they could expect Wahlstrom and Iskhakov to accept their qualifying offers with one of them taking the final spot. But by then, they’ve certainly gone over the cap.

And that’s without even considering returns for respected veterans Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin.

Unloading one or a collection of minimal salaries like Hudson Fasching’s $775k still leaves bodies to be replaced.

So before dreams of Shane Pinto being pried away from Ottawa can be realized, a salary of consequence needs to be moved simply to allow the Islanders to field that 23-man team.

J-G Pageau is still the prime candidate to deal away, but has that changed with former teammate Duclair coming in?

Either way, Lou Lamoriello will have to get creative to reshape the roster beyond just bringing in Duclair and Tsyplakov.

We’ll see what Lamoriello has up his sleeve soon enough.

For a more in-depth look at roster addition options, see our Stefen Rosner’s latest piece over at The Hockey News.

Catch the latest episode of HNiNY as the boys covered the Draft & Free Agency

For more off-season coverage, catch Hockey Night in New York with hosts Sean Cuthbert and Stefen Rosner live from Floored Media in Rockville Centre this Sunday July 7th at 8PM ET!

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