The New York Islanders find themselves in another offseason of salary cap hell, all thanks to contracts with numerous forwards making too much money for too long and no way to move them. With extensions for Mathew Barzal and Bo Horvat next season, and only around $5 million cap space to work with, it will be difficult to significantly improve this team to the point of being a Stanley Cup contender.
Tyler Yaremchuk and Mike McKenna spoke 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 to have a bunch of really hard working guys. They are a team that works hard, plays strong defensively and has a world-class goalie in Ilya Sorokin. But keep in mind that you will have to pay Sorokin double what he earns now easily after the season ends. He will be UFA in 24-25. He’s making $4 million this year, he’s going to be an $8-9 million goaltender because he might be the best on Earth.
This list, this construction against the cap, the salaries on it, the number of no-trade clauses, no-move clauses, it’s a huge mess. It’s a contractual mess and they need to create flexibility. Sounds ripe to me for Lou to take a big swing and make a trade this summer. The problem is, he hasn’t done it for so long, and I don’t know if it’s really in him. He did it for Horvat, but it’s a deadline. Is he ready to leave Josh Bailey? $5 million for 20-30 points, this contract needs to go, and he’s not alone.
And they still have to sign a top-four defender because I think Mayfield is going to work. He was too underpaid. $1.45 million for what he brings to the team, he’s out the door. It’s been undervalued for too long, it’s time to get paid. They’re going to need a great defender, and they still need another keeper to go along with Sorokin. I think they’re going to have to dive into the dumpster on that one because Semyon Varlamov isn’t coming back for less than $3-4 million minimum.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Just because I have this image of Sorokin as a promising young goalkeeper, even though he’s been dynamic for so many years, I forget that he’s heading into his 28-year-old season because he has spent so much time in Russia. A UFA next summer for Ilya Sorokin, you almost have to take a look at it this year. I’m sure Sorkin is very open to signing there, but if you can’t do that, I’d be afraid to potentially let this guy go through next season without signing for an extension.
Mike McKenna: We talk about how important it is for the Leafs to lock up Auston Matthews this summer, this deal for Sorokin could define this franchise on Long Island because you don’t meet guards like this.
Tyler Yaremchuk: It’s a lottery team if they don’t have it.
Mike McKenna: Yes! This guy saved their lives last year. So Lou has his work cut out for him, he’s created a mess. Again, this is very similar to what happened at the end of his stay in New Jersey, so he’s going to have to reinvent himself and reinvent this list.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Could Horvat and Barzal bounce back next season? I think so, Horvat scored over 30 goals, I know he wasn’t great when he arrived on the island, but those two could bounce back.
I’m still not convinced that’s enough. Lou needs to do a roster rebuild.
Mike McKenna: Yes, of course, I agree. I don’t mind having Barzal, I think Barzal’s deal was a $9.15 million overpayment.
But Barzal and Horvat, of course. But this murky environment, all these $5 million contracts and no-trade clauses, a lot of them are just bad deals. They have to go, but I don’t know how.
You can watch the full episode here…