The New York Islanders find themselves in another offseason of salary cap hell, all thanks to contracts to a lot of forwards making too much money for too long and no way to move them. With extensions to Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat kicking in next season, and only around $5 million in cap space to work with, it’s going to be tough to drastically improve this team to the point of being a Stanley Cup contender.
Tyler Yaremchuk and Mike McKenna talked about the Islanders offseason and how general manager Lou Lamoriello can try to improve this team for next year on Daily Faceoff Live.
Mike McKenna: Lou is lucky that he’s got a bunch of guys that really work. This is a team that work their ass off, they play hard defensively, and they’ve got a world class goaltender in Ilya Sorokin. But, keep in mind, you’re going to have to pay Sorokin double what he’s making now easily after this season’s up. He’s going to be a UFA in 24-25. He’s making $4 million this year, he’s going to be an $8-9 million goalie, because he might be the best one on Earth.
This roster, this construction against the cap, the salaries that are on it, the number of no-trade clauses, no-movement clauses, this is a huge mess. This is a contractual mess and they’ve got to create flexibility. This feels ripe to me for Lou to take a big swing and make a trade this summer. The problem is he hasn’t done it in so long, and I’m not sure if that’s really in him. He did it for Horvat, but that’s a deadline piece. Is he willing to move on from Josh Bailey? $5 million for 20-30 points, that contract’s got to go, and he’s not alone.
And they still have to sign a top four defender, because I think Mayfield is going to walk. He’s been way too underpaid. $1.45 million for what he brings to the team, he’s out the door. He’s been undervalued for too long, it’s time to get paid. They’re going to need a big time defenseman, and they still need another goaltender to go with Sorokin. I think they’re going to have to dumpster dive on that one because you’re not going to have Semyon Varlamov come back for anything less than $3-4 million at the very minimum.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Just because I have this image of Sorokin as a young, up-and-coming goalie, even though he’s been dynamic for so many years, I forget he’s heading into his age 28 season because he spent so much time in Russia. A UFA next summer for Ilya Sorokin, you need to almost take a look at that this year. I’m sure Sorkin’s very open to signing there, but if you can’t get that done, I’d be scared shitless of letting that guy potentially walk through next season not signed to an extension.
Mike McKenna: We’re talking about the importance of the Leafs getting Auston Matthews locked up this summer, this deal for Sorokin could define that franchise in Long Island, because you don’t come across goalies like this.
Tyler Yaremchuk: They’re a lottery team if they don’t have him.
Mike McKenna: Yes! That guy saved their ass last year. So Lou’s got his work cut out for him, he’s created the mess. Again it’s very similar to what happened to the end of his time in New Jersey, so he’s going to have to reinvent himself and that roster.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Could Horvat and Barzal bounce back next season? I think yeah, Horvat scored 30+ goals, I know he wasn’t great when he got to the Island, but those two could bounce back.
I’m still not convinced that that’s enough. Lou’s got to do some roster reconstruction.
Mike McKenna: Yeah, for sure, I agree. I don’t mind having Barzal, I think Barzal’s deal was an overpay at $9.15 million.
But Barzal and Horvat, sure. But that murky middle, all those $5 million contracts and no-trade clauses, a lot of them are just bad deals. They’ve got to go, but I don’t know how.
You can watch the full episode here…