Editorials

Projecting the Islanders 2020 RFA Contracts

As National Hockey League play is paused due to the COVID-19 outbreak across North America and the world, the Islanders organization has been reaching out to its fans during the suspension. This includes providing an update on the Islanders 2020 RFA contracts.

Many players and head coach Barry Trotz have went on the Islanders Twitter page and sent best wishes to the fans hoping for their safety. Also, the Islanders held a mailbag session with GM Lou Lamoriello, and fans asked questions on the state of the team, such as the status of injured key players, whether or not Ilya Sorokin will be in the NHL next season, and how things have changed since he took over.

Notably, fans were curious about the status of pending restricted free agents Mat Barzal, Ryan Pulock, and Devon Toews, along with the possibility of an offer sheet being made to the all-star Barzal.

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Lamoriello made it clear during his Q&A that if anyone were to offer sheet Barzal, the Islanders would match the contract. Also, he stated that the Isles have every intention to sign all three players. With the statements made by Lamoriello on the pending contracts, expiring contracts to Matt Martin and Thomas Greiss, and an increased salary cap, fans can begin speculating on how contracts to each player would look based on the earnings of similar players. For now, here are some expectations based on contracts around the league.

Ryan Pulock

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The 25 year old defenseman has continued to make a name for himself on the back-end throughout the season. Boasting a solid two-way game and a hard slapper, he has a 31-goal, 77-assist, and 108-point career-line in five seasons of play with 2016-17 cut to one game due to a season-ending injury. However, since the injury he has rebounded nicely and has become a go-to piece in Barry Trotz’s structure.

In terms of contract projection, possibly similar contracts to a Pulock deal belong to Charlie McAvoy and Zach Werenski. The two players are each making nearly identical deals making $4.9 million and $5 million respectively until the 2022-23 season where they will each be RFAs again. Also, they are each very similar in styles of play with very strong offensive upside and defensive play.

While Pulock may be slightly inferior to the players in question, it is possible he will be making somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.5 million when pen is put to paper. Pulock signed a two-year deal in 2018 and is currently making $2 million in the final year of the contract. The lone question mark is about term considering the increasing trend of bridge deals around the league, but it is likely he will make money similar to McAvoy and Werenski.

Contract prediction: four years, $19 million dollars ($4.75 million average)

Devon Toews

Toews is still a relatively fresh name to the NHL landscape coming out of Quinnipiac and the AHL level. The highly touted defensive prospect has shown a lot of promise in his first two seasons putting up 11 goals and 35 assists for 46 points with his line for this season reading 6 goals, 22 assists, and 28 points. While the defensive play has been a little weaker this season, he still has played a solid campaign looking for a pay raise this offseason.

Devon is currently in the final year of a 2 year, $1.5 million deal averaging $750,000 a year. His earnings will probably be similar to what Pulock made on his deal in 2018. He will earn a noticeable but not tremendous increase in salary for a year or two, but once his new deal is up then we can expect him to see a raise to money that Pulock makes. So for now, expect a short-term deal with about one million dollars and change on average and an increased salary once that deal is up.

Contract prediction: two years, $3 million ($1.5 million average salary)

Mat Barzal

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The NHL’s fastest skater is the obvious piece to watch for the team heading into the offseason. With Barzal entering his first RFA period, there are two possible contracts he will receive. One of the possibilities is a strategy that a large majority of stars in the 2019 RFA class played by means of a short term deal now with a pay day coming in another RFA period. Some notable names and their current contracts with this idea in mind include Patrik Laine (two years, $6.75 million AAV), Brock Boeser (three years, $5.875 AAV), and Brayden Point (three years, $6.75 million AAV). However, he could also receive his pay-day right up front much like Clayton Keller at $7.15 million for eight years, Nico Hischier at $7.25 million for seven years, and Kyle Connor at $7.142 million for seven years.

With his status as the 2018 Calder Trophy winner as NHL Rookie of the Year, strong skating and elite play making ability, the price tag on Barzal would be fairly steep either way. If he were to try to go the long term route, it is possible he could make much more than the names listed and earn at least $8 million dollars on a new deal. Also, it is possible another team could offer him more than the Isles on an offer sheet, forcing the team to match and increase their offer. It’s likely we’ll see the team pay him up front, but if the Islanders aren’t willing to pay Barzal what he wants yet and don’t receive an offer sheet, we could see him go the bridge-deal route and sign a three year deal at around $6.5 million average to try again in a few years.

Contract prediction: seven years, $59.5 million ($8.5 million average)

Of course this is all speculation and we won’t know how much each Islanders 2020 RFA will make until pen is put to paper on these deals. However, when looking around the league at players that are similar in play and contract earnings, we can begin to assume how much each Islanders 2020 RFA will make this summer.

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