Earlier this morning, the New York Islanders announced they have officially agreed to re-sign their four big free agents in forwards Kyle Palmieri, Anthony Beauvillier, Casey Cizikas, and goaltender Ilya Sorokin. Many media members speculated these deals had been agreed upon long before this date, and that General Manager Lou Lamoriello even intended to bring his former New Jersey Devil captain Zach Parise to the Island as well. Although the Parise signing was not announced in this batch, we still believe he will be a member of the club come opening night. In addition to our discussion about today’s deals, we will also discuss how we believe they stack up against the rest of the talented teams in the Metropolitan Division for the 2021-22 season.
We’ll start with Kyle Palmieri, as we wrote an article on April 8th, 2021 following his trade to the Islanders from New Jersey. In it, we wrote that Palmieri’s $4.65 AAV at the time was fair value according to our arbitration analyzer tool, yet he would most likely get a raise in free agency. That raise however turned out to be only 350k, and at $5 million AAV until 2025-26, we believe this contract is a solid one. Kyle Palmieri finished 2020-21 with a -1.87 score despite playing over half the season on one of the NHL’s worst teams in the New Jersey Devils. This score was actually his best individual AB score since the 2017-18 season, in which the Devils qualified for the playoffs as a result of Taylor Hall’s Hart Trophy winning campaign. Palmieri has been a positive AB player throughout his career, as he has a Career AB score of +1.37 over an eleven-year period. In that same time-span he has registered positive scores in five seasons as well as two seasons with slightly negative scores (-0.53 in his rookie year (2010-11) and -0.28 in his sophomore year (2011-12)). Production-wise this season, Palmieri scored ten goals with eleven assists for twenty-one points in fifty-one total games with the Islanders and Devils. However, in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, in which the Islanders fell in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup semifinals to the eventual back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning, Palmieri was tied with Brock Nelson as the team’s leading goal scorer with seven in their nineteen game playoff-run.
Speaking of playoff performers for the Islanders this season, Anthony Beauvillier was tied with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Josh Bailey with thirteen points for second on the team in scoring during their run. Beauvillier also contributed fourteen points (nine goals with five assists) in the team’s twenty-two game run in 2019-20, in which they also lost in the Stanley Cup semifinals to the Tampa Bay Lightning, this time in six games. No player on the 2020-21 New York Islanders registered a higher individual AB score than Anthony Beauvillier, as his +7.91 was also far and away the best score of his career. He has registered positive scores in four of his five seasons we have on record, and his career AB score is a solid +1.09. When we ran Beauvillier through the arbitration analyzer, we determined his closest comparables in terms of career average points/AB (32.09) were Nikolai Kulemin (31.90) and Denis Gurianov (32.09). During his age twenty-four campaign, Nikolai Kulemin made $2.35 million, and Denis Gurianov currently makes $2.55 million. Despite the fact we believe Beauvillier will grow into his three-year, $4.15m AAV contract and that it will be a solid one down the road, for now, it is an overpayment of $1.6 million according to our arbitration analyzer tool. In forty-seven games with the Islanders this season, Beauvillier scored fifteen goals with thirteen assists for twenty-eight points (0.59 PPG (highest of career)). We expect Beauvillier to have a career-year next season and are excited to see what he will do.
The last forward the Islanders agreed to terms with today was Casey Cizikas, who has spent his entire ten-year career with the team. In that time span, Cizikas has registered six positive individual AB seasons to four negative, two of those negative seasons coming in his first three-years in the league for a total Career AB score of +1.17. His -0.14 score in 2020-21 was his worst individual score since the 2017-18 season in which he registered a -3.55 score. However, in 2018-19, he posted a +11.69 individual score, which was not only the best score registered by an Islanders player that year, but it was the highest score registered by an Islanders player in the history of our study, as it still is to this day. Cizikas’ new six-year, $2.5m AAV deal was 500k fewer than the arbitration analyzer projection, as Philadelphia’s Scott Laughton makes $3m AAV when the average career points/AB between the two players is 19.67 (Cizikas) to 19.62 (Laughton). Production-wise, Cizikas played a full fifty-six game season for the Islanders this season, in which he scored seven goals with seven assists for fourteen points. Earlier this afternoon, Cizikas said, “I’m going to die an Islander, that’s how you can put it”, and a sixteen-year career with one team would certainly be very impressive.
Lastly, the franchise’s elite young goaltender Ilya Sorokin was extended three-years at $4m AAV, causing him to become an unrestricted free agent at the deals conclusion. The 2014 3rd round pick played in twenty-two games this regular season with the Islanders, posting .918 save percentage (10th highest in league) and a 2.17 goals against average (7th lowest in league) with a record of 13-6-3. Sorokin even added three shutouts (tied for 6th in the league with Alex Nedeljkovic, Juuse Saros, Chris Driedger, Mike Smith, Petr Mrazek, Anton Khudobin, Jacob Markstrom, and John Gibson) and received a fourth place as well as a fifth place vote for the 2021 Calder Trophy. The elite tandem of Sorokin and fellow Russian countryman Semyon Varlamov is poised to be one of the league’s best for the foreseeable future, and Sorokin is well worth his four million dollar tag.
In total, we believe that the New York Islanders overpaid by $1,450,000 on the three forwards, an average of $483,000 per player, which is incredibly efficient and incredible that Lou Lamoriello and his team were able to do so well here, on top of extending the possible goaltender of the present/future as well. We will watch closely for the Parise deal to cap off the offseason, as the Islanders will have around $2.27m after they put Johnny Boychuk’s $6 million on LTIR. As of today, we have the Islanders finishing 4th in the Metropolitan Division at a +11.15 team score, behind Pittsburgh (+31.93), Carolina (+23.67), and Washington (+21.07). Much more to come.