In a matter of two days, the Islanders opened up some crucial salary-cap space that was so desperately needed heading into the summer.
Entering the offseason approximately $5 million below the salary cap, the Islanders’ laundry list of to-do’s made improving the roster — let alone remaining the core of a team that has made two straight Stanley Cup semifinals — seem like a daunting task.
The Islanders have a pair of two key unrestricted free agents in Casey Cizikas and Kyle Palmieri while restricted free agents in Adam Pelech, Anthony Beauvillier, and Ilya Sorokin require new deals as well.
Desperate for some wiggle room, team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello managed to get a pair of massive contracts off the Islanders’ books just before the NHL’s roster freeze took effect on Saturday. Teams now will not be able to make any signings or trades until after Wednesday’s Expansion Draft as the league’s newest team, the Seattle Kraken, builds their roster.
Friday saw the Islanders trade veteran defenseman Nick Leddy and his $5.5 million owed this year to the Detroit Red Wings for winger Richard Panik and a 2021 second-round draft pick. The Red Wings retained half of Panik’s contract as the Islanders nearly doubled its amount of cap space with that one move — saving $4.125 million.
The next day saw the albatross of Andrew Ladd’s contract finally removed as New York sent the oft-injured forward and the $4.375 million he was owed this year to the Arizona Coyotes along with a second-round pick this year, a 2022 conditional second-round pick, and a 2023 conditional third-round pick.
Now with nearly $13 million in space to work with, the Islanders are expected to announce a one-year, league-minimum ($750K) deal with veteran defenseman Andy Greene to keep him with the team — and with more space set to open up.
Once they move defenseman Johnny Boychuk — who announced his pseudo-retirement last year because of an eye injury — to long-term injured reserve (LTIR), the Islanders will have up to $18.1 million in space.
That number will increase even further during the Expansion Draft on Wednesday, though that number won’t be known until the Kraken make their pick from the Islanders’ roster. Should they expose winger Jordan Eberle and Seattle take him, that’s another $5.5 million that comes off New York’s books this summer.
That should be more than enough to retain Cizikas, Palmieri while securing the futures of Pelech, Beauvillier, and Sorokin. It also could make the Islanders players in the free-agency market — whether that’s in the form of recent Minnesota Wild buyouts in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, or something even larger.