News as of yesterday has 6 of the Islanders pending restricted free agents being tendered qualifying offers by the club. It doesn’t necessarily mean that these players are set to accept the offers, as they can still opt for salary arbitration. Throw in today’s news that the salary cap has been raised to $56.7-million, a $6.4-million raise from what it was previously last season. With a raise in the salary cap, means a raise in the salary floor – which could spell trouble for the New York Islanders.
Per the Islanders on the players qualified:
The New York Islanders have extended qualifying offers to forwards Sean Bergenheim, Jeremy Colliton, Frans Nielsen, Jeff Tambellini and Ben Walter along with defenseman Bruno Gervais. All will become restricted free agent if they are not signed prior to July 1st, 2008.
Bergenheim and Gervais spent the entire 2007-08 season with the Islanders. Bergenheim appeared in 78 games, scoring 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points. Gervais saw action in 60 games and recorded 13 assists and points to go along with 34 penalty minutes.
Colliton, Nielsen, Tambellini and Walter all split time between the Islanders and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League. Tambellini recorded one goal and three assists in 31 games with the Islanders while finishing seventh in the AHL in scoring, leading the Sound Tigers with 38 goals, 38 assists and 76 points in only 57 games. Appearing in 16 games with the Islanders last season, Nielsen recorded two goals and an assist for three points. Colliton also played in 16 games and went scoreless while registering eight penalty minutes. Walter saw action in eight games with the Islanders and scored his first NHL goal.
Moving back to what I had said previously, with the cap now set at $56.7-million, the cap floor is increased to around $40.7 million. With all of the current Islanders under contract for the 08/09 season INCLUDING the cap hit from Alexei Yashin, the total payroll for 08/09 is $34.354-Million. This does not factor in any of the qualifying offers for the aforementioned 6 players, some of whom (Tambellini and Bergenheim) may opt for salary arbitration seeking modest raises. Figure a number around 3.5 to 4 million (which is a generous guess) for those players and you still have some work to do in order to reach the league minimum.
With that in mind, there is room for Garth Snow to add talent to this club during Free Agency, the real question would be WHO and HOW MUCH? I like the way Snow has managed the payroll of this club up to this point because he certainly has a great deal of cap-room to add some big-name players should the desire strike him. It is the cap room and the Toronto media’s knowledge (and disdain) for Bryan McCabe that keeps his name in the ring of players rumored to be coming to Long Island this summer. The Islanders have a short laundry list of players they need in order to field a team next season, given their desire and willingness to go into full-out rebuild mode. They have the option of bringing in (at the minimum) one of a scoring center or wing and a puck-moving defenseman. The option to overpay even sounds like a good one, given the reluctance of players to come to Long Island and because of the distance between the cap-floor and ceiling. This is what makes absorbing McCabe’s exorbitant contract a little more palatable – although some insist on Toronto sweetening the deal.
This is certainly going to be an interesting summer even though the list of UFA’s isn’t nearly what it was last season in terms of the caliber of talent moving around. However, with names like Hossa, Campbell, Redden, Sundin, Malone, Avery, Ryder, Naslund, Morrison, Orpik, Huselius, and Pandolfo out there (just to name a few) – the potential to land SOMEBODY is pretty good.