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Colorado Cap Crunch, Samuel Girard to Islanders?

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Samuel Girard, New York Islanders, Colorado Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche want to retain forward Nazem Kadri, and Kadri wants to stay, but their salary cap situation is making it rather difficult. With only $3.9 million in space, newly appointed general manager Chris MacFarland has some work to do. The New York Islanders, who are also linked to Nazem Kadri, could actually help the Avalanche retain their star by acquiring defenseman Sam Girard.

The New York Islanders, who need offense, also need another defenseman, and despite a $5 million annual cap hit through 2027, Sam Girard is a defenseman that the Avalanche could move to create the space needed for Kadri.

Per Rick Dhaliwal, who covers the Vancouver Canucks, tweeted that the Avalanche had signed left-side defenseman Brad Hunt to a two-way, two-year deal. That gives the Avalanche nine defensemen under contract for 2022-23.

It would be a bit comical if the Islanders sent a pair of second-rounders to the Avalanche, given the whole Devon Toews trade between these two squads back in October of 2021.

Per Adrian Dater, who covers the Avalanche for Colorado Hockey Now, he believes that the asking price for Girard might be a first, but given their Kadri situation, they cannot afford to be too picky.

But the Islanders do have second-round picks to work with. Could two get the job done?

In 2021-22, the 24-year-old Sam Girard notched five goals and 23 assists in 67 games played. After just seven postseason games, Girard suffered a broken sternum and missed the remainder of the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup-winning run.

In those seven games, Girard had one goal and two assists.

Girard will not light the lamp often, but over his five years in the NHL has been as consistent as they come. He’s good for four to five goals a season and 20-30 assists. He’s also a minutes eater, having averaged over 21 minutes per game in each of the last four seasons.

Over his five-year career, Girard has never missed the postseason with the Avalanche.

He averaged 21:35 last season on a deep Colorado Avalanche team, and given his ability to move the puck, he becomes another option on the power play.

Don’t be fooled by Girard’s 5’10, 170 lb frame. He can still lay the body, which he did 65 times this past season.

Girard is an exceptional skater and has the ability to move the puck up the ice in transition. The New York Islanders have a few defensemen that can do that, in Ryan Pulock and now Noah Dobson. And with the acquisition of Sam Girard, would give the Islanders three puck-moving defensemen on three separate lines.

The Islanders’ defense would be a force again.

Here’s some footage of his skating ability:

It’s also worth mentioning that Girard can play the left and the right side, making him a versatile option for newly appointed head coach Lane Lambert.

When Jack Eichel was being shopped by the Buffalo Sabres during the summer of 2021, Sam Girard’s name, then 23, was rumored to be on the move with the Avalanche wanting Eichel. However, after Eichel was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun shared that the Avalanche were never shopping Girard.

But what about now?

The Avalanche created their own cap crunch by signing forward Valeri Nichushkin to an eight-year, $49 million deal as well as Arturri Lehkonen to a five-year, $22.5 million deal. Hockey is a business, and if management really wants Kadri back, they need to make sacrifices.

Sam Girard at a $5 million cap hit may seem like a lot, especially with the Islanders cap situation and a need for a forward. But for New York, it is not only about this season.

The Islanders will have to make a decision on Mathew Barzal, who is an RFA after the 2022-23 season.

Right now, Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock are locked up until 2029 and 2030, respectively. Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov, current RFAs, will either be signed to bridge deals (3-4 years) or receive long-term deal.

Scott Mayfield is a UFA at the end of this upcoming season and could be moved with 21-year-old Robin Salo close to being NHL ready.

With the acquisition of Girard, who again is 24, the Islanders go from having one of the oldest defensive groups in the league to one of the youngest, with so much potential.

Not to mention, Girard is likely to be worth much more than $5 million if he continues to play the way he has played so far in his short NHL career. But the Islanders will not have to worry about a Girard raise until 2027.

That’s a big deal in the salary cap era.

Picture this:

Pelech-Pulock

Romanov-Dobson

Girard-Mayfield

 

I wrote a story for NYI Hockey Now regarding an offer sheet for Toronto Maple Leafs young defenseman Rasmus Sandin, fully understanding how unlikely offer sheets are. It would cost the Islanders roughly $4.1 million for this upcoming season with an extension.

New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello did not get the top forward available, and this move would allow for the Islanders to have a bit of space to sign a depth forward like Long Island native Sonny Milano.

Lamoriello already trusts his forward group and is hoping, like the fan base, that many players can bounce back in a normal 2022-23 season. The defense is the strength of this hockey club, and making it as strong as possible is critical, especially if the offense is not being upgraded.

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