Hey, look, I like Cal Clutterbuck. Dude plays hard, has very good hockey sense and surprisingly soft hands for a tweener third/fourth liner and penalty killer. He’s a luxury the Islanders have enjoyed for a couple of years and seems like a well-liked guy among his teammates.
cal clutterbuck will absolutely fight you at the wendy's on sunrise highway in baldwin if you ask him to— Michael Willhoft (@MichaelWillhoft) January 28, 2015
But signing him to a five year extension worth $3.5 million per year against the salary cap (per Elliotte Friedman) at the age of 29 is not a smart move. This is the kind of ill-advised, oh-man-we-need-that-guy contract a team gives out on July 1, only to regret it by the following January.
This calendar year alone, the Islanders have locked up both Casey Cizikas and Clutterbuck to nearly identical contracts (five years, $16.75 million, $3.3 million AAV for Cizikas and five years, $17.5 million for Clutterbuck). Each player tops out as a bottom sixer with skills that can be replicated by others for a fraction of the cost.
Clutterbuck’s high in goals (15) and points (23) with the Islanders were both achieved last season. He had 19 goals and 34 points with the Wild in 2010-11. Per Corsica.hockey, his 5v5 CF% over the last four seasons is below 50% (his best for a season was 51% in 2014-15). And before you say it, yes, his role is about more than points as one of the team’s top penalty killers. Is all that worth five years and $3.5 million a season, almost $7 million when you combine it with Cizikas? Nope.
(In fairness to both guys, Nikolay Kulemin’s $4.5 million AAV is the worst of the three. But that’s a whole other situation.)
Just as the team was putting together a winning streak in an attempt to pull themselves out of the early hole they dug, they found a way to derail us again. Giving out big money to older, gritty players like Clutterbuck and Andrew Ladd while letting skill guys like Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen get away just makes all of the anxiety come back again.
Per CapFriendly, there isn’t a no moment or no trade clause in the contract. And as Arthur Staple notes, the lower salary in the later end of the deal opens the door for a potential trade later.
In my blogging haste, I worried about how this affects the Islanders plans for the upcoming expansion draft. It still could mean a generally more skilled player might be left unprotected. That includes Brock Nelson, Anders Lee, Ryan Strome or defensemen Calvin de Haan or Thomas Hickey, all of whom arguably bring more to the table than Cal does, albeit with less energy and worse mustaches.
But, as reader SafeArbour mentions in the comments, maybe the big contracts are meant to scare off the Vegas PATENT PENDING Golden Knights from taking players like Clutterbuck and Cizikas, meaning they’re the ones who can be left unprotected and Garth Snow can use those spots to keep some of the aforementioned players. If that’s the case, I’ll send Snow an Edible Arrangement next Summer.
The hope is that this contract, like Cizikas’, doesn’t hurt the Islanders too much in the future. But right now, even that seems unlikely. Pray that either Cal magically becomes a 20-goal scorer or the salary cap rises by $20 million soon.