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Creating the Cap Space For Nazem Kadri Acquisition

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New York Islanders, Nazem Kadri, Josh Bailey

This past weekend, I spoke to someone very close to the Nazem Kadri situation, who shared that Kadri was Long Island bound, with the question just being when. As mentioned in my piece on Sunday, until pen hits paper, things can change in a heartbeat with New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello, but I trust the information given.

However, it seems what’s holding the move back from being official is that the New York Islanders want to clear out salary cap space.

READ: New York Islanders Likely Destination For Nazem Kadri?

Despite being on the market longer than anticipated, Nazem Kadri will still get paid. Term seems to have been the biggest issue with other clubs, especially the Colorado Avalanche.

There is no information on what Kadri’s rumored deal with the New York Islanders will be worth, but NYI Hockey Now has heard that the deal could be coming in around $7 million annually.

The length of the contract is the difficult task, given Kadri entering his age 32 season.

The New York Islanders have a little over $11 million in cap space per CapFriendly, but there is one flaw in their equation. Right now Robin Salo and his AAV of $800K is not counted against the Islanders cap, as he is non-rostered on their site.

So, by including Salo, which they should, that leaves the New York Islanders with 10.3 million in salary cap space. And if the Islanders believe Salo is not ready, they will likely sign a veteran to the league minimum (750K).

A Kadri deal, at $7 million annually, would leave general manager Lou Lamoriello with around $3.3 million to sign Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov along with Kieffer Bellows.

Alexander Romanov is likely to get $2 million on a bridge deal, maybe a little more. 23-year-old Adam Boqvist, who scored 11 goals with 11 assists in 2021-22, just signed a bridge deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, worth $2.6 million annually over the next three seasons.

Romanov netted three goals with 10 assists in 2021-22 so $2 million to $2.3 million seems justified.

For argument’s sake, let’s say $2.2 million annually for Romanov, $4 million annually for Dobson, and 850K for Kieffer Bellows (Sebastian Aho money) on their next deals.

That would put the New York Islander $3.75 million over the cap.

Per NHL rules, teams can go 10% over the salary cap in the offseason, as long as they are cap complaint by the start of the regular season. The salary cap is $82.5 million, with the 10% bump bringing that to $90.75 million.

But again, that available space is only for the time being, and it isn’t easy to move a contract. Now, if the rest of the league knows that Lamoriello needs to create the space, which they do, it becomes even tougher a task, as the asking price becomes exponentially greater–depending on the player being shopped.

There were reports around the NHL Draft that the New York Islanders were not shopping their longest-tenured player in Josh Bailey, who sits seven games short of 1,000 in the blue and orange.

I can confirm that as of today, Josh Bailey and his $5 million are being shopped. Bailey, 32, has two years left on his deal worth $10 million ($5 million annually).

That does not mean Bailey moves, but given his cap hit, it makes the most sense to get Kadri to Long Island.

Josh Bailey, like many, struggled mightily in 2021-22, and although he has been known to turn it up in the postseason, the New York Islanders need to put themselves in the best position to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after missing them this past season.

A grizzled veteran could do wonders for a young, rebuilding team, such as the Arizona Coyotes ($23 mil in space) and Chicago Blackhawks ($10.5 M in cap space).

I would even throw in the Ottawa Senators, who are looking stronger heading into a season than they have since their Easter Conference Finals finish in 2017. They have $7.94 million in available space, and another veteran on a young team could do wonders.

Lamoriello does not have leverage at the moment and he may have to throw in a few picks and a prospect to get Bailey off the books.

With Anthony Beauvillier ($4.15 AAV over next two seasons) at the 2022 NHL Draft, the movement of the 25-year-old was and is still rather unlikely. I would even go as far as to say he is staying put.

The same can be said about netmidner Semyon Varlamov, and his $5 million cap hit.

Kieffer Bellows, who had a relatively strong end to his 2021-22 campaign, could be a piece that entices a team to take on Bailey. There is no spot for Bellows as an everyday player at the NHL level with this Islanders group right now, as this upcoming training camp would be a critical point for the 24-year-old, former first-round pick.

A little tidbit here, but Kieffer Bellows and Coyotes forward Clayton Keller both came through the United States Development Program together, and both went on to play college hockey at Boston University.

Could we see a reunion in the desert?

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, 29, has four years left on his deal with an annual cap hit of $5 million. Given that Nazem Kadri is a center and the New York Islanders already have four (Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal, Pageau, Casey Cizikas), moving out a center does make sense if the Islanders do not want to move a center to the wing position.

In 2021-22, Pageau notched 18 goals with 21 assists and won 55.3% of his face-off draws. Not only that, but Pageau, like Zach Parise, is a versatile forward who can play on both special teams. In 2021-22, Pageau averaged 17:40 minutes per game.

Pageau and his $5 million would not be difficult to move. But one could say bringing in Kadri and losing Pageau does not make the New York Islanders a better hockey club. Remember, it’s not just about the stat sheet, especially in the system the Islanders play.

There is one player that is not being talked about and that’s Richard Panik. His cap hit at the NHL level is $2.75 million but the Detroit Red Wings are retaining 50%. Since he is non-rostered, only $250K counts against the salary cap, with the remaining $1.125 being buried.

The 31-year-old has one year remaining on his deal.

Panik’s contract alone would not be enough, but it definitely could be an outgoing contract that moves the needle.

The expectation is that the New York Islander and Nazem Kadri will not officially announce a deal until that salary cap space is created.

Until then, the waiting game shall be played, and when we learn more information, so will you.

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