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Free Agency

Jake Guentzel Available; Islanders Should Have Interest

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Elliotte Friedman’s 32 Thoughts Podcast came out today, and he dropped a massive piece of news within it. Jake Guentzel of the Carolina Hurricanes is available for a mid-round draft pick.

For the New York Islanders, this should be a slam dunk. Since Team President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello took over, the Islanders have needed a bonafide top-6 winger.

Guentzel is exactly that. He’s been nothing short of fantastic for his entire career, mostly playing shotgun to Sidney Crosby, before making a strong impact on the Carolina Hurricanes after this past trade deadline. He’s a two-time forty goalscorer and a Stanley Cup Champion, and he’s scored at a 30-goal pace per 82 games every year since 2018-19.

How Much Would Guentzel’s Contract Cost?

If acquired, Guentzel immediately fixes the glaring hole in the Islanders’ lineup next to Bo Horvat and Mat Barzal. AFP Analytics projects a Guentzel contract to come in around 7x$9.2 million, which might be too rich for the Islanders. That’s where trading for his rights comes in.

By acquiring his rights, Guentzel immediately becomes eligible to sign for eight years on the Island. If so, instead of $64.4 million spread over 7 years, you could offer him exactly what you gave Horvat: $68 million over 8 years. You could even push it to $70 million and keep the number below $9 million per season.

Every year, the excuse for the Islanders has been the lack of cap space. Islanders fans have to be exhausted by that excuse. While it may be true, continuing to do nothing about it while your competitive window shuts and the players age and lose value, you’ve made your own mess.

How To Make the Space?

If this means bidding adieu to Jean-Gabriel Pageau, that’s indubitably necessary. You’d likely still have to clear out one more contract, as moving Pageau gives the Islanders just over $12 million in space. Looking at CapFriendly, the next candidate is Anders Lee.

Moving off both Lee and Pageau may be difficult, but that’s why the trade with Chicago was made. Honestly, if the Islanders acquired Guentzel for a fourth-round pick, I would strongly consider giving a team the 20th overall pick to move both Pageau and Lee, maybe to a team like San Jose looking to add to their draft capital.

At that point, the Islanders would clear $12 million in space and have $19 million in space. Giving Guentzel and the re-signing players around $14-$15 of that leaves the Islanders with space to target players available in free agency, perhaps a player like Viktor Arvidsson, a strong buy-low candidate coming off of injuries, but a very reliable top-6 contributor.

What would next year look like?

With Guentzel and Arvidsson added, the forward lines could look something like this:

Guentzel-Horvat-Barzal

Arvidsson-Nelson-Palmieri

Engvall-Cizikas-Holmstrom

Iskhakov-MacLean-Fasching

That forward group, on paper, would be the best the Islanders have had in a long time. That’s before any other depth signings are made. Players like Anthony Beauvillier can be gotten on the cheap, and he could play a top-9 role as well.

Ultimately, it’s very unlikely the Islanders will take this swing, mainly due to the realities of the cap. But Lou should make these teams say no. Continuing to do nothing is no longer an acceptable route, and using the excuse of cap space is not good enough.

It’s hard to pull off, and surely Carolina would rather send Guentzel out west. Despite all the factors working against this, Lou should make these teams say no. Make the best offer he can, and see what happens.

All in all, acquiring Jake Guentzel and signing him to a max extension should be a priority for the Islanders if they want to win with this core. If not? They better get one of the other main top-6 wingers available, though none are quite as good or shiny as Guentzel.

If not? It’ll be more of the same on Long Island. Roughly 92 points in the regular season, while either sneaking into the playoffs, or just barely missing the cut.

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Wasnt

Good read….. I’d hate to lose Anders Lee

Michael Galligan

Get him but keep Anders ! Trade JG , Pierre, Hudson and Aho !!!!

LordIceburger

Pageau should go to Seattle. After trading Wennberg, they have a hole in the middle. Lee & the 20th pick to San Jose, who can use some Veteran leadership. Then we can go after Guentzel. I would also sign Jordan Martinook. Fasching is not that physical, nor is Engvall. I have zero faith in Lou to not F this up.