The New York Islanders are among the teams in the National Hockey League that have been most negatively impacted by the salary cap crunched caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Islanders had hoped to see the cap rise significantly, as it had been projected to do prior to the season shutting down, in order to get important players like Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews signed to new deals, but that simply will not be happening.
The Islanders have already dealt away Toews in a trade that was clearly designed to forgo having to give him a raise on a new contract, which now leaves the Islanders with $8.9 million in cap space. You might be thinking that sounds like a lot of money, but there's almost no doubt that Barzal will eat up all, or most, of that cap space on his new deal and the Islanders still need to work out a contract with Pulock as well. There's little doubt given this reality that the Islanders will have to make another move and Islanders insider Arthur Staple has laid out 4 candidates that he believes are currently on the trading block. Here they are in no particular order.
According to Staple there have been rumors of Boychuk being on the trading block since the start of the offseason and given his relatively large cap hit of $6 million per season I can certainly see why. Of the players listed by Staples as possible cap casualties Boychuk comes with the biggest number attached, but that may also make him the hardest to move in this current era of the salary cap squeeze.
Ladd was linked to a potential trade with the Minnesota Wild ahead of the NHL trade deadline in 2020 and there's little doubt in anyone's mind that the Islanders would like to move on. Ladd has not been the player he once was for the Winnipeg Jets and at a cap hit of $5.5 million he has become something of a burden for the Islanders at this stage of his career. The Islanders would love to move Ladd but I don't believe they will find any takers unless they also give up some big time assets along with Ladd.
Hickey likely makes the list because his average annual value of $2.5 million no doubt makes him considerably easier to trade than either Ladd or Boychuk. No doubt in a perfect world the Islanders would prefer to hang on to the former Los Angeles Kings 1st round draft pick, but given the challenges facing general manager Lou Lamoriello, Hickey may have to go.
Perhaps the most surprising name on this list is that of Islanders forward Leo Komarov. Komarov proved to be a valuable role player for the Islanders this season after being scratched early on in the campaign, but in spite of that Staples claims that Komarov has also been rumored to be on the trading block. At a cap hit of $3 million I can certainly see Lamoriello choosing to move his cap hit and sacrificing a valuable piece of his bottom 6. It was Lamoriello who brought Komarov in however, this after both were members of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, so I suspect he may try to move some of the other names on this list first.