Mmmm… can you smell it? No, it isn’t all those bloggers mashing their calculators on how the NY Islanders cap is only a mere touch over $1 million in cap room. Wait… didn’t we have money for Stamkos? Remember all those players on peoples summer Xmas lists? “We can afford all of them!” – they said!
Yet here we are just before camp with a lot less. It is funny how contracts quickly add up, especially when you add the Isles RFAs. According to both CapFriendly.com and GeneralFanager.com – The NY Islanders only have a mere $1.158 or so million of room below the cap ceiling.
What we smell is the cusp of Fall. Hockey Season is just around the corner. The camp weigh-ins and doctor exams are this week. We can almost hear the mighty humming of all of Josh Ho-Sang’s alarm clocks all plugged-in and ready to go.
Strome signs at 2.5 AAV for 2 years. Some cite that this is too much, which is very silly when two seasons before he was a 50 point player. Players are usually valued in two year amounts, not just one. This is a player who could have gotten 50-60pts and been in a $4-5 million per year scenario.
Instead, he had a horrible year. Garth went on record citing that Strome was likely miscast by them as a winger and should have remained a center. Well, that is something that also goes into the mechanics of hammering out a deal, despite the glaring fact two seasons ago he had no problem scoring as a wing.
All this said…. $2.5 million AAV for a year is reasonable. The fact he is tied to that 2.5 million next year when both player and the organization expect better is where the bargain is. It is a good deal for the Isles.
It is an added bonus that this deal is not the night before camp, causing everyone, including fans, agitation.
The Rude Awakening: Issue #1
He called out players via the media, but didn’t bother bringing it up directly to the players in the locker room.
It was something that some of those players did NOT forget.
Of course, the Isles offset any inconsistency just enough to get into the playoffs, win the goalie and best player duel versus Florida in round 1; but then stuttered and faded against a far more experienced, despite injury-riddled, Tampa team.
There were a few things Jack did that really seemed to rub some players the wrong way over the course of the season, but it was that example that really did not fade. Just as I cited, coaching made some mistakes in the playoffs that do not fade so quickly, either.
1. Key mistakes when the pressure was on in the Tampa match-up, as I cited in this blog: CLICK HERE.
2. Cappylytics™ – which was his and his staff’s nasty habit of sticking with mediocre veteran players instead of young players with more skill when the pressure was on. I wrote about this HERE.
But more on that another time. We will see how coaching has adjusted this year.
When asked, players still like and respect Jack Capuano and the coaching staff, overall. But there was a fundamental change in tenor within. They saw when the pressure rose, coaching seemed to panic and lash-out in the wrong directions. As a result, players were rubbed the wrong way. Coaching must make this adjustment this season, lest bad vibrations churn once again.
The Rude Awakening: Issue #2
Over the summer, another fundamental change happened. As I warned, the Islanders said goodbye to some long-term stalwarts via free agency. The organization was meeting a new change in tenor, as well. This was one being dictated by a cap reality and long-term plans. Those who were near or even past their peak would not be a priority to retain. Those below that bar, like Casey Cizikas, is where commitments would be met (still in my mind a bit overpaid for a line 4 center, but I digress).
The team said goodbye to Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin.
Okposo was especially irked by the organization stance when ‘they never bothered to make an offer’. The team had been turned-off completely by he and his agent’s ballpark figure one-year before. The team never changed their stance. Okposo took less than that ballpark figure to be in Buffalo. Did Okposo and his agent overplay their hand? Likely.
I believe while Okposo sat and waited for an offer from the Isles, the Isles sat and waited for a more reasonable offer from him and his agent.
The Isles never blinked or budged.
Then with Matt Martin, the Isles did make an offer in free agency. However, it seems when Jason Chimera was interested in signing, the offer was pulled. The Isles played the free agency game and felt they had an improved position allowing speed and goal-scoring skill to fit within their fourth line. Plus the ability to plug in a player like Chimera on other lines when injuries happen was a boon they did not have before. They chose to go in this other direction.
As I have cited before… Matt Martin has been overvalued due to shot suppression by some analytic folks. However, the mistake here is that shot suppression should be based on line output, not staked to an individual. The line with Chimera should be just as good or at least close enough, with more value created in other aspects. Line 4 should have a new dynamic and set of attributes, due to Chimera’s inclusion.
Overall… This is the business end of the NHL, where teams need to look past the familiar and close other gaps.
However, the one change that hurts most, from a veteran player point-of-view, is the loss of Frans Nielsen.
Frans was a loved player and friend to many on the team. It is his loss that seems to be most cited this past summer as something that just doesn’t swallow as easily as the others.
Andrew Ladd brings new intangibles and different skills, besides leadership, in place of Okposo. As mentioned, Chimera offsets Martin, and adds a new dynamic to line 4. P.A. Parenteau certainly will be an interesting retread if he can find some old magic for line 1.
But the Islanders did not replace the heart and soul, besides skills of Frans. His teammates still feel that loss and it is a raw nerve, as we move towards camp later this week.
Obviously, this is a business, and these are professional players. They will move past it. However, those wounds can quickly open if the Isles stutter or fall.
The Big Questions That Remain
The Islanders sit with a lot of questions from last season and this summer…
- Can Thomas Greiss remain a number 1 goalie or will we fall back into the Jaroslav Halak/Greiss tandem once again? (I am on the record in feeling that we will see more of the latter with a 1a and 1b situation). Where does this leave Jean-Francois Berube? Wonderful injury insurance and if a market DOES develop for Halak (seems very thin and improbable barring major injury to an NHL starter), then he becomes the backup.
- Does the inclusion of Andrew Ladd and the bringing back of Parenteau enough for line 1 and John Tavares?
- Can Anders Lee and Ryan Strome bounce back from a bad season? Both are key for the Isles to derive scoring outside their top line.
- Is Johnny Boychuk in decline or just an off-season? (as I cited previously, we have seen indications of both, so can be either scenario)
- TRADE? When will the Islanders be able to make a trade to seal up their top 6 offensive need? I lean sharply that between December and the trade deadline of this coming season is a prime opportunity for the Isles to make a big-time deal as teams have clarity on what they have and also prepare for an off-season expansion draft. Garth Snow is a patient opportunist and opportunity might be a reward late season. You can never say never as other teams prepare for a season, but it is far more likely a deal gets done when the iron is hot… close or near the trade deadline.
The Clutterbuck Effect?
Cal Clutterbuck and his agent will be looking for a long-term deal from Garth this season. His last deal was 4 years and I’d expect him to look for something like that again.
However, Cal will be 29 in November, and on the downside of peak for what would be a 3rd to 4th line-type player.
Matt Martin, Frans Nielsen, and Kyle Okposo gone should be fair warning here, folks.
I am sure Cal will get a long-term deal at 3-4 years. I just don’t think it will be with the NY Islanders.
I warned everyone about a year ago around this time on the UFA situation with Okposo, Frans and Martin. The organization is now a cap team with cap mentality and must commit to the right players at the right time. This is a big change. Due to this, we will see more well-liked vet casualties heading elsewhere. Cal seems next unless willing to do a shorter term. We shall see, but you have been warned.