2019-2020 New York Islanders Retrospective- Why the Herd Mentality of #IslesKoolAid Fails

by | Sep 23, 2020 | New York Islanders, NHL, NHL Hockey, NHL Playoffs | 0 comments

As we wrap up part three to the Islanders 2019-2020 retrospective and prospective, I’m going to fire up the couchbound GM in me and talk about potential deals that can be made, because if you look at the landscape of the NHL, there are deals to be made if only someone had the courage to do something unthinkable by Islander Kool Aid standards- like make a trade. You know, like Lou did at the deadline to get us to our first ECF ever, and he didn’t even trade for Tyler Kennedy!

Then I’m going to tell you how far distanced from reality the fans known as Islander Kool Aid #IslesKoolAid are. Which is a different planet.

TL;DR- the Islanders have 7 slots to fill to have a roster next year, and $9 million dollars in cap space, with three of those slots being Barzal, Toews, and Pulock. That’s the reality of the situation that #IslesKoolAid never gets their head around.

If you look at the NHL landscape, there are certainly haves and have nots. The New Jersey Devils fit in many have not boxes. Two of their needs are defensemen, as they only have 4 of them signed for the upcoming season. They also need about $5 million to reach the CAP FLOOR. No matter what the Devils do, they are going to suck next year. Why not help them suck less, get them to the cap floor, address their glaring hole in defense, and help yourself out at the same time, albeit temporarily?

Kyle Palmieri is a top 3 payer on the Devils. After the 2020-21 season he will be an unrestricted free agent, and he is NOT sticking around in New Jersey.

Deal one: Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk to NJ for Kyle Palmieri. The trade gets the Devils merely to the floor. It strengthens their defense with a pairing with immediate chemistry. It ties the Devils to this upcoming suck year with these guys, then a year until you free up nearly $12 million in cap space for the Debbies. Both defensive players are still productive.

For the Islanders, it frees $5 million of cap space. Considering Barzal’s present salary of roughly $900,000? There’s the finding for almost all of Barzals raise. And it gives them a season to decide what to do with Palmieri before he hits unrestricted free agency.

Deal two: This isn’t even my creation, it’s already being kicked around as a rumor out there. The RFA rights to Devon Toews, one of the two prospects of Walhstrom or Bellows, Josh Bailey or Jordan Eberle, and a 3rd rounder for Patrick Laine and a 2nd.

How does this work for both teams?

Winnipeg gets rid of a 30+ goal scoring future contract headache who is already making almost $7 million dollars and will want a raise after this season. Winnipeg gets a quick and offensive defender on a team with only 4 defenders under contract for 2020. They also get an experienced playoff forward to mix in with a group of mostly young skill forwards where Bailey can post another 20 meaningless playoff points or Eberle can add in a mix of .6ppg playoff production without being a centerpiece. 

Pricewise Winnipeg loses almost $7 million. They’ll take back the $5m of Bailey and end up around $4-5m for Toews, but they also get a future first round forward piece and a pick. The Isles get a few dollars in savings, but they also get a pick back because they may only have Laine for one season and need a reason to eat the risk of losing a talented player.

Next trade?

Eberle/Bailey to Colorado for the rights to Ryan Graves. Colorado has a need for skill forwards to advance in the playoffs. They also need some money to get to the cap floor. Graves is a restricted free agent that is coming into his own and will demand a contract, but unlike at forward, the Avs have way more bodies at defense than at offense. Trading from a strength to fill a weakness is smart.

For the Isles? Graves will cost about $2 million a year for 3 years- a 300% raise-  before they have to make a hard decision on him. This will give them some breathing room in the decision making realm of what to do with Mayfield and Pulock over the next two years.

At this point I already know that we’re talking fantasy GM stuff, because there is NO GM in the NHL that will make a trade for the overpaid, underproductive Josh Bailey. ZERO FOR THIRTY ONE. Why?

Trade Four: revisiting Andrew Ladd and Sebastian Aho for Zach Parise, with Minnesota eating the difference in salary for Ladd for the remainder of the Parise deal. How does this work? The Islanders get rid of Ladd and his $5.5m cap hit. Minnesota will only actually pay Ladd $9m, based on how Ladd’s deal was structured. That’s how they can float the $10 million they won’t be paying Parise to be an Islander, while the Islanders have to pay Parise $27.5 million to ride out that deal. That’s a fantastic cash savings for Minnesota- it’s thje ability to afford a different impact player. Ladd is likely to LTIR anyway, so it’s win- win for Minnesota. And Aho gives Minny depth at defense, which needs a defenseman right now, and 2 more the next season.

There is no cash savings here for the Islanders, its actually trading 3 bad years for 5 unknowns, but also a guy that scores 20 goals every year, will be a power play asset, and can take a 3rd line shift and work with a newly acquired 3C with no wings rather than be grinding for top 6 minutes and beatings.  That will prolong a career.

Next up? Offer Pietrangelo $10 million a year for 5 years. Give him a $5 million a year salary and $25m as a signing bonus.  Because it’s hard to say no to a check for $25 million.

How does that work? The new owners are clearly flush with cash. These are no longer the days of Cheap Charlie. The owners also would want to make a splash in time for a brand new arena, especially after going 0 for 2 on the last two big UFA’s on the market in Panarin and Snake. You have to step up for moments like a new arena opening, unless you want to do that without any shiny new toys. The cap hit is $10 million either way. But $5m in actual salary makes a player tradable if his decline comes on like a Subban. Pietrangelo isn’t likely to retire before 36 so there’s a small concern about reclaiming salary against the cap if he retires. And he’s be the most potent offensive force on the blueline since Mark Streit, but also plays defense.

Not happening with Bailey on your roster

So let’s look at the video game lineup:

On offense:

Laine Barzal Palmeiri – roughly $18m

Lee Nelson Beauvillier- roughly $15m

Parise Pageau Bellows/Whalstrom- roughly $11.5m

Johnston Cizikas Clutterbuk- roughly $8m

Komorov – $2.5m Dal Colle $700k

Total Cost- about $56m

Last year’s hit- $48m

2019-2020 Goals Scored: 160

2020-2021 Projected Goals (based on repeating 2019-2020 stats): 215

The forwards would actually cost a lot more than last years group. $8 million more. $6 million of that increase is the salary of Mathew Barzal. Palmieri somewhat amazingly makes less than what Bailey does. Laine makes about a million more than Eberle, although that’s going to change in 2021. Johnston makes less than Martin. Minnesota will be eating the salary difference between the exiting Ladd and what impact Parise would have on the salary cap. Whichever rookie F will make what Khunackl did. Brassard’s cap hit is gone. And that top 9 is lethal compared to what they had.

On Defense:

Pietrangelo Pulock – roughly $15m

Pelech Dobson – roughly $2.5m

Mayfield Graves- roughly $3.5m

Hickey $2.5m

Total Cost- $24.5M

Last years hit – about $23m.

2019-2020 Goals Scored: 28

2020-2021 Projected Goals (based on 2019-2020 stats): 43

This defense will cost about the same as least years defense, as the raise for Pulock would be made up of Pulock and Toews last years salaries, plus whatever small raise he gets to carry him to his UFA days.  Pietrangelo will not make $11.5m which is what Leddy and Boychuk make. Dobson Mayfield Pelech and Hickey already have contracts. Graves would come in around half of Greene’s $5m cap hit, as he is also an RFA.

At goal:

Sorokin – $2m.

Varlamov – $5m

Total Cost- $7m.

Last years cost- $8.3m.

This is already set in stone, which made it easy. This will change in the summer of 2021 if Sorokin is any good. The salary cap, however, will not.

Total cost for 2020-2021 Islanders? $88m. Which is why it cant be done, right? Not with a cap ceiling of $81.5m.

Now you have the wonderful option of how to compensate for being $7.5m over the cap. Do you trade Lee? Do you sign a different option than a sexy name like Pietrangelo? Do you give Pulock a one year deal at $3m? Bury deals in the AHL? Break up the rest of the best 4th line in hockey w less expensive options?

I started to feel bad that I spent time writing this, but not really, because there is a lesson to be learned in the exercise.

All the proposed trades offset salary for the Islanders, so new bodies aren’t the issue. The issue the Islanders face is the timing of the RFA deals that will add at least $8m to the payroll if you just keep Pulock and Barzal. If you want Toews? Y
ou’re adding $12m to keep the same team and eat up more cap space than you actually have. On a team that was a win now team.

That, and then you weigh the overpays that were justified at the time with stupid phrases like “yes it’s 6 years but it’s below market 6 years from now” and realize that those long term deals have impacts on the present frozen salary cap. In 2019-2020 Ladd and Bailey ate $10.5m for under 20 goals. That’s similar to what Tavares made last year. Which situation would you prefer?

And we know that the Islanders lack of ability to score goals against high octane teams- they would probably have lost a tight contest to Dallas just as well as they did to Tampa- means that they do need to make wholesale changes at F.

Islander fans like to shit on proposed trades, and thus will try to shit on my entire hypothetical, one where I knew going in that Lou would not trade away half a dozen guys from his roster, mostly because he doesn’t have to be that bold anymore for league wide recognition.

Actually, let me be the first to shit on the fans hearts for this upcoming season. The Islanders caught every break possible, including a global pandemic, just to LOSE in an Eastern Conference Final. Not the championship, but a pre-championship. They’re going to return with the same team? No, they’re not.

Larry Brooks recently wrote about how losing breeds character in a locker room. Well, Carolina went to the ECF against the Bruins last year. Carolina lost the series last year, and Boston lost the Cup. NEITHER team made a return to the ECF. Columbus made it past their first round ever last year. Not this time. Toronto didn’t even make the playoffs, technically. Henrik Lundqvist’s final season will be bought out because he could not carry the Rangers on his bi-curious back one last time. Stanley Cup champs St Louis are at home watching this year and are going to lose a key player. But the Islanders are the team that’s going to buck that trend? If you believe that, I have a big bag of dicks right over here for you to eat.

Keeping this roster together the same way as it was last year? DEFINITELY SHOULD NOT HAPPEN. It’s already changed at Goalie, and the limits of the salary cap and trade rumors says changes are far from over. So, think about what changes you want to see and where, because they are going to happen. You’re going to lose some favorite sons, or you’re not going back to an ECF. So decide what you like more- the players or the team, because only one of those matter.

Oh, we also have to take into account one more roster. The most unrealistic roster of all. The #IslesKoolAid roster.

What is the Kool Aid roster? Some fans seem to like individual players more than they like the team. The root for the opposite of Gestalt. Those fans do not want to see one single removal of any player on the roster. They want it to be just like last year, forever. This is the Garth Snow effect- when you lose so fucking much that you think it’s normal. IT’S NOT. It’s embarrassing. It’s the mentality of the bad fan. It leads to shit like adults waiting to wave at an airplane full of millionaires because fans are concerned that the rich folk will have hurt feelings.

The #islesKoolAid roster? Here we go. Barzal sees $8 million. I said $6m is a more than a fair price to pay the guy short term to eat the rest of his RFA and a little of his UFA, but we’re talking Kool Aiders here. Barzal needs to be paid like Crosby before he even plays in a final, nevertheless wins a cup.

Matt Martin? He can’t go to the Rangers! It’d hurt our feelings! Rangers are offering him $3m a year? Lets go the same as Cizikas and Clutterbuck and do $3.4m.

Brassard had some key plays in the playoffs. Yes, he’s in a career decline, but he can come back on the same bargain deal at $1.5m.

Can’t trade Ladd for Parise. Sure Parise had 25 goals in the shortened season, which is about what Ladd has scored for his entire Islanders career (39 goals in 4 seasons for $26.5 million dollars) , but Parise will be at the end of his career…just like Ladd. We can’t change what we know!

The one change? Khunackl can go. We have an offensive minded prospect to bury on the bottom 6 and the pressbox, just like first round pick Josh Ho Sang.

2020-2021 cap hit for Kool Aid forward roster: $62.5m

2019-202 cap hit for team: $48m for the same roster.

On defense?

We can’t let Toews OR Pulock walk. Pulock has become a top 2 defender and needs to be paid AT LEAST $6 million dollars just like Boychuk. And Toews? $5.5 million just like Leddy. Pelech is a restricted free agent next year, but lets not look down the road at next summer. Hand out that money now!

2020-2021 cap hit for Kool Aid roster: $29.5m

2019-2020 cap hit for the same roster: $23m.

And goal?

2020-2021 cap hit for Kool Aid goalies: $6m

How? Well, they like Greiss more than Varlamov because he was here longer. So the Islanders should resign Greiss- with a small raise of course- for $4m and work to trade the $20 million left remaining on Varlamov. That’s probably not impossible, but it creates a problem when Sorokin leaves after the 2020-2021 season because he was sold a false bill of goods regarding goaltender partnerships, and the Islanders need another goalie with nothing at all in the pipeline. Because Bridgeport develops players, yo.

2019- 220 cap hit for the roster: $8.3m.

The #IslesKoolAid cap hit? $98 million. For at best, more of the same. So who’s lineup looks crazy now? Fact is, by not changing anything, your fantasy roster is more expensive and less talented than the one I cobbled together, which added “all stars” and removed “all stains.”

In conclusion, #IslesKoolAid has pipe dreams of bringing a team back to hope it can do more of the same, which was lose. Me? I like that saying, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results each time.

My fantasy roster is improbably. But the wishes of #IslesKooAId? Batshit crazy.

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