The New York Islanders are now over the half way mark of the NHL schedule and as of this blog remain outside of playoff contention sitting in 4th place of a wild card spot. Their record suggests a “constantly inconsistent” or “Middle child” team that has gone through injuries, call-ups, line shuffles and anything else you can think of to survive. Fans have been frustrated with Islanders general manager, Lou Lamoriello for not improving the team during the off season as their was a belief within the organization that last year was a phenomenon due to covid and a crazy schedule which saw UBS arena open up further into the season than it should.
This year the Islanders still have a better record than last year at this time (15-15-6), but the fear of losing and not making the playoffs for a second straight season is so great with the fanbase that a call to remove Lamoriello now and begin a rebuild seems like a mandate. The problem is, the Islanders can’t rebuild like many Islanders fans are accustomed to back in the Nassau Coliseum days. The Islanders do have a plan and it’s continuing to build, literally and figuratively.
Isles Talk learned last summer that the New York Islanders had lost an estimated 70 million dollars due to the two covid seasons and icing the team at Nassau Coliseum. Last year, the Islanders made 30 million dollars in their inaugural season at UBS arena. Honestly, when has anyone: a fan, writer, hockey personality…..anyone ever heard of the New York Islanders making 30 million in one season! The Islanders are still recouping their losses from those two seasons and a continuous push for a playoff berth would alleviate that problem.
Also as part of the redeveloped land at Belmont Park, the Islanders are expected to build a new 250-room hotel/casino, and retail village in the near future so having a traditional rebuild, where the organization could expect an half-empty arena every night for roughly 5 years would not be feasible. A brand new hotel/casino along with a future financial village would allow the Islanders a better chance at being rewarded an All-Star Game, an NHL Draft (YES PLEASE!!!) and if an pandemic like covid ever occurred again, the Islanders would be a perfect candidate to host an emergency season.
Also keep in mind that the NHL the salary cap has not risen significantly due to the covid pandemic and it’s not expected to rise for another two more seasons. Once the players escrow is taken care of the NHL salary cap should rise approximately 4-6 million dollars. However the NHL borrowed around 1 billion dollars to help teams get through the pandemic and were helped by their new contract with ESPN for you guessed it: 1 billion dollars. Any kind of generated revenue now comes from that, outdoor games and new arena’s like Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, UBS Arena and in the future: Calgary, Ottawa and at some point in our lifetime, Arizona. So while financial constraints are still around, it may be beneficial for the Islanders to continue on this “middle child” path while Lou Lamoriello works with a tight cap with players who still want to be an Islander and allow the younger prospects more time to develop in a positive environment, instead of going through growing pains previously seen with teams like New Jersey, Buffalo and the Islander rebuild of the late 2000’s.
The thought of a rebuild sounds like a nice idea, especially this draft, but the New York Islanders cannot afford to “Blow the team up” and wait (roughly) 5 years. The Islanders need to continue building by getting the necessary players through trades to keep the organization competitive in the short term. Perhaps a retool is a better median for both fans and the organization but from a cap perspective. According to CapFriendly the Islanders have roughly 4 million dollars in current cap space. That number is expected to go up to roughly 7-8 million by the trade deadline in roughly 5 weeks. Perhaps a deal could be made by the trade deadline? Or when the season is over, maybe a player or two gets bought out or gets sent down to the minors (Thomas Hickey, Richard Panik) before next season begins to save on cap space? Maybe there is a player who could be on LTIR to start the season? Then for the long term there is the upcoming 2023 NHL draft, which is looking very similar to that of 2018 when the Islanders drafted players like Noah Dobson, Oliver Wahlstrom, Ruslan Iskhakov etc.
I believe the Islanders are not done building. Owners have actuals buildings to put up and a GM to finish building this organization. Lou Lamoriello did inherit this team, but he’s resigned most of them back but there is still that need to build further for the now and future. Despite the call for a rebuild, the Islanders need to continue making that push into the playoffs to generate interest/money for today so that Islanders fans will enjoy in the future. The question is will Lou Lamoriello will be at the helm? After going through everything what has happened the last 3 years with covid, a tight cap structure, old/new buildings, schedules, etc., Lamoriello dug deeper when he hired a new head coach in Lane Lambert, stood pat this summer while he performed a massive “scouting” of his players, showcased his young prospects to the rest of the league, and continues to build up his cap space before the trade deadline all while the Islanders (for now) still have a better record from last year.
The New York Islanders are on the verge of having a financial area that could compete with the Toronto Maple Leafs but on a Long Island setting. UBS Arena, the racetrack (Belmont Stakes), hotel/casino, a financial village instead of a city all with the hopes of All-Star games, NHL drafts and so much more( I hear the Rangers may need a place to play for a year or two), yet what they need to do is continue to retool and build for the short term and strive for any kind of playoff berth in order for the long-term aspirations to become a reality for the islanders faithful to fully enjoy their time as Islanders fans.
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