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Islanders News: Which Islander(s) gets ejected for Bo Horvat?

Besides the guys already sent to Vancouver, we mean.

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New York Islanders v Vancouver Canucks
Winner gets to stay.
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

Once the shock of the Bo Horvat acquisition subsided, the next natural question for most New York Islanders fans became, “If they can sign him...well, how do they sign him?”

As in: what will he command, and how will they find the cap room?

We can only go by rumblings and speculation on what the pending UFA was seeking in his summer negotiations with Vancouver, but given those and his career year, it’s reasonably safe middle ground to start with 8x8 or higher for this exercise. (That’s 8 years, $8 million per, for those new to salary cap rosterbation.)

According to CapFriendly, the Islanders have a pretty full deck of commitments to 15 roster players on the books already for 2023-24, with mostly just their lowest-cap players potentially coming off the books:

  • Semyon Varlamov ($5M cap hit)
  • Scott Mayfield ($1.45M)
  • Zach Parise ($750k)
  • Hudson Fasching ($750k)

They also have at least one RFA likely to command a raise in Oliver Wahlstrom, currently at a modest $894k.

With the 2023-24 cap projected to go up modestly to $83.5 million (this, despite Larry Brooks’ passionate protests, make no mistake, Slap Shots has learned), CapFriendly currently has the Isles at $16.25 million in cap room for that season.

That sounds like comfortable space, but it’s with a lot of roster roles to fill.

Needed Signings/Replacements

If Horvat is signed, figure that cap space is more than halved, leaving at most $8 million (but probably less) left for 4-6 roster spots.

  • Though Walstrom’s considered a sniper, he’s yet to compile a “full” regular season and his rate is still about a point every other game. Coming off his ELC, a low-leverage short-term bridge deal in the $2-3 million range could let him build up some healthy, good statistical years for his third contract while giving the Isles some breathing room until then.
  • Perhaps they bring back Varlamov at a slight pay cut ($4M cap hit?). If it’s $3-4 million for Varly or a different backup, that cuts the room to at most $4 million.
  • Scott Mayfield or his replacement needs signing — if they go the bargain route with a minimum salary callup (which isn’t like them), then they’re down to around $3 million left with some room for other minimum-level deals like Parise. If they coax Mayfield to stay at a discount in return for a looooong-term commitment, maybe they get him at around $3-4 million over many many years, which means {poof} they’re out of room.
  • If they don’t find a pay cut agreement with Varlamov, they could go the cheap route, but they’ve yet to show any belief in Cory Schneider or Jakub Skarek. And going to the bargain bin elsewhere would inject less certainty into the position than they’ve typically had under Lamoriello.

You see where this is going. The pretty probable scenario is that someone who takes up meaningful cap space will have to go.

Burial Options to Create Room

  • If Cal Clutterbuck’s accumulation of injuries has caught up to him, he could “retire” to LTIR, but his cap hit is only $1.75 million anyway.
  • You might be inclined to buy out Ross Johnston since he’s used so seldomly, but his cap hit is so low the savings would be pretty slim ($733k).
  • That brings us to a frequent target, particularly in these discussions: Lifelong Islander Josh Bailey, who carries a $5 million cap hit for one more season, so a buyout would save a modest but not insignificant $2.33 million according to CapFriendly’s buyout calculator. That’s not a ton, but it might be enough to create wiggle room in 2023-24.

There are probably other scenarios that actually turn out to be true — or maybe Horvat never signs, and things fall even further apart. But this paints the tight picture Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders are dealing with. They have to keep getting better; how they finagle it with current commitments is a puzzle.

I would say, “Well, Lou has always figured it out. He’ll figure it out again.” But no. He actually hasn’t. The Islanders cap situation has continued to be a handcuff summer after summer.

He’s figured out how to get them cap compliant each year, but it has come at a cost that made them worse: They traded Devon Toews. They traded Nick Leddy. They lost Jordan Eberle. They paid assets Arizona to get them to take Andrew Ladd. Et cetera. These have all allowed the Islanders to field a legal roster, but they have not led to season-over-season improvement, and that’s a summer challenge they will face at least one more time if Horvat is retained.

Islanders News

  • Island Ice podcast: Andrew Gross discusses the Horvat deal. [Newsday]
  • How Bo Horvat continually worked on his game to turn into a top liner. [Post]
  • 7 Facts on Bo Horvat. Horvacts, you might say. [Isles]
  • Horvat will still play for the Pacific at the All-Star Game, while “representing” the Islanders. [Sportsnet]
  • Canucks GM on the Horvat trade: “Original plan [was to keep him], and again, respect Bo Horvat that he put himself in the position to be a UFA, and with that, dictating where he wants to play and how much money he wants to make.” [TSN]
  • It’s a pivotal month for Lou. If this doesn’t work out right, is it his last stand? Would the owners make a move? “When I stop getting excited, then I’ll know it’s time.” [Athletic]
  • More from Anthony Beauvillier’s into to the Canucks and farewell to his Islanders buddies. [AM NY]


In the last games before the break, the Hurricanes dumped the Sabres and the Bruins thumped the Leafs in Toronto.

  • That provides a reality check for the Leafs. [Sportsnet]
  • “Brad Marchand stirs the pot as Bruins, Leafs renew rivalry” except no, not at all, that’s not what this is about at all. Why do they write Kardashian-gossip headlines like this? [TSN] A more straightforward headline at Sportsnet.
  • Ranking every All-Star from MVP candidate to “just waiting for Bedard.” [ESPN]
  • A blow for Vegas: Turns out Mark Stone will be out for quite a while, as he’s had back surgery. [NHL | TSN]
  • Gustav Nyqvist is out for the season, so take him off of whatever trade deadline list you had him on. [TSN]
  • Andrew Brunette has been charged with driving a golf cart under the influence. [TSN]
  • “How I found he freedom hockey promised by escaping the game entirely.” [Sportsnet]