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New York Islanders

Islanders Cap Space Solution Starts With Ross Johnston




The New York Islanders entered the offseason thin on cap space, to begin with.

After trading away Josh Bailey, they gave themselves just enough room to re-sign three of their four unrestricted free agents and make a few minor additions on the fringes of the roster.

But after bringing back Oliver Wahlstrom and minor league goalie Jakub Skarek in recent days, the Islanders are officially out of disposable income and have overdrafted their account.

According to, the team’s payroll currently sits at $486,625, over the NHL’s salary cap of $83.5 million. For now, they can stay 10% above the cap until the start of the regular season. However, at some point, a move will have to be made.

To shed costs, Islanders’ president of hockey operations and general manager Lou Lamoriello will likely have to make roster cuts during training camp, and Ross Johnston may be one of the firsts.

The veteran enforcer signed a new contract in October of 2021 and carries a $1.1 million cap hit for the next three seasons. It’s not a lot compared to some other contracts the Islanders have on the books and is fair market value. However, considering how desperate they are and what he provides them, Johnston is too costly for the Islanders to afford.

Playing in just 16 games in 2022-23, Johnston was often a spectator and typically only played when either Matt Martin or Cal Clutterbuck couldn’t. When vacancies opened elsewhere in the lineup, Johnston was passed over.

Right now, the only spot the Islanders have open looks to be on the third line. If Zach Parise decides to come back for a 19th NHL season, the job will be his. If not, Wahlstrom and Julien Gauthier are the two most likely candidates to earn the role. Simon Holmstrom will also be competing for the spot.

As for the extra forwards, whoever doesn’t earn the third line role will be one of them, while players such as Karson Kuhlman, Arnaud Durandeau and Otto Koivula will also be trying to crack the roster as well. All of them have NHL experience and have proven they’re more equipped than Johnston to play the modern version of the game.

“Guys that fight have to be able to play the game,” Johnston said on May 1. “That’s something I take pride in. Sometimes when you’re not playing games, people don’t always see it. These last few years, I feel like I’ve developed those other aspects of my game.”

With so many other players in front of him in line, it’s unlikely Johnston will get a chance this year to prove he’s expanded his skillset with the Islanders. By waiving his contract and sending him down to AHL Bridgeport, the Islanders can give Johnston the playing time he’s looking for and give themselves $613,375 in cap space in the process.

It’s not much, but it’s enough to get started and might be best for both sides.