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New York Islanders

The Argument to Keep Pageau: Trade Cizikas?

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New York Islanders Casey Cizikas

There are just over 24 hours until the NHL Draft, and NHL trade rumors are flying, but actual trades and news are hard to come by. The New York Islanders, as always, have a shroud of silence encompassing the team and its potential moves. The Islanders want to move money off the books and add some goalscoring. The first name rolling off of everybody’s tongue has been Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Pageau, 31, is owed $5 million per season against the cap for two more years. It’s a steep price, primarily because the cap just finally increased. Look, I’ll put my hand up here. I’ve said from one of my first articles here that it’s made sense to move off Pageau if they can. The Islanders need to get younger, and they need goalscoring. To do that, they have to shed money.

What if the cost of doing business is just too high to justify?

Yesterday, the Chicago Blackhawks acquired a second-round pick, signing rights to Sam Lafferty and Ilya Mikheyev from Vancouver, all for a fourth-round pick. The Canucks also retained 15% of his salary hit, which took it from $4.75 million down to $4.037 million.

That is steep.

The Islanders can’t afford to burn assets to move out contracts annually. Yes, they have two second-round picks this year. But they don’t have a third-round pick (traded for Pierre Engvall).

Yes, moving money is necessary. But last year, the Islanders shelled out a 2026 second-round pick to the Blackhawks to take on Josh Bailey, who they bought out. Two years before that, the Islanders gave out two second-round picks and a third-round pick, all to move out Andrew Ladd.

I’m not saying those moves were unnecessary; they were essential, in fact. However, moving Pageau right now for negative value would not be a good move. It’s just burning more valuable draft capital. The Islanders need to restock the cupboard OR acquire a player like Nikolaj Ehlers.

Pageau’s Unseen Value

The degradation of what Pageau brings to the team is lost in all this. He might even be the first to tell you he had a rougher-than-usual year. He still scored 33 points and 11 goals while dealing without a constant left-winger for the entire season.

Yes, the penalty kill was terrible, but pinning that all on Pageau is unfair. After all, a significant conversation this year on the Island was about how injured the defensive core was. After the coaching change, things stabilized more for Pageau, who settled in as the PK slowly but surely improved, even if only marginally.

The cost to move out Pageau’s entire salary without retaining is a second-round pick, at least. Pageau still holds value to the team. Heck, around the league, teams called about him at the deadline.

Maybe the answer is to trade Casey Cizikas. Cizikas, 33, is two years older than Pageau. He is also one of the longest-tenured Islanders, debuting during the 2011-12 campaign. Cizikas is a fan favorite and a complete energy jolt to the entire team.

Why Cizikas?

Cizikas, unlike Pageau, is at the absolute peak of his value. He just put up his third-highest points total of his career and highest since 2018-19. He holds no no-trade protection, either. Cizikas also just spent the playoffs on the wing of Mat Barzal and Bo Horvat.

Cizikas is owed $2.5 million against the cap for the next three seasons, a team-friendly deal. The benefit to moving on from Cizikas is that there’s no universe where you’re attaching an asset to move on from him. You’d get something in return.

Or, maybe Winnipeg has interest in him as a potential replacement or depth where Sean Monahan would have been, as he’s becoming an unrestricted free agent on Monday. He could then be used as part of a deal to land Ehlers, unlike Pageau, whose salary likely hurts the Islanders’ negotiating line.

That said, moving Cizikas likely doesn’t clear enough salary for the Islanders to do what they want to do. At that point, an Anders Lee buyout must be seriously considered. Buying Lee out this year saves the Islanders $4.125 against the cap, which, combined with the space from moving Cizikas’ $2.5, gives the Islanders an added $6.625. Ehlers’ cap hit comes in at exactly $6 million this year.

Final Thoughts

It’s not an easy path, nor is it very realistic. While you read this, Anders Lee is at the NHL Awards tonight, accepting the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. I don’t see a world where Lou is ruthless enough to buy out the captain.

However, moving on from Pageau when he’s at his lowest value could be a mistake. He’s got hockey left in him; he’s only 31. Cizikas, at 33, may have just had his last great season. There’s no telling when you’ve hit the cliff.

Best asset management, however, dictates the Islanders should move on from the older Cizikas while his value is still high. Next summer, maybe moving Pageau with only one year left is a far easier task.

We will continue to wait and see what the Islanders will do. No matter what they do, it’s far from an easy decision. Pageau, Cizikas, and Lee all mean a ton to that locker room, and it’ll be a shakeup if and when one or two of them are removed from it.