ANA | BOS | BUF | CAR | CBJ | CGY | CHI | COL | DAL | DET | EDM | FLA | LAK | MIN | MTL || NHL UFAs | NHL Draft

NJD | NSH | NYI | NYR | OTT | PHI | PHX | PIT | SJS | STL | TBL | TOR | VAN | WSH | WPG || Kelowna Connection | Shea Weber | Leadership

Friday, August 26, 2011

New York Islanders Trade Bait: Josh Bailey or Blake Comeau?

Josh Bailey
Last month the New York Islanders traded winger Trent Hunter for winger Brian Rolston. For New Jersey it was a cap saving move to the tune of ~$4M (after Hunter's buyout). For NYI, it is another 20 goal scoring winger  added to the lineup. If Rolston is taking a top nine forward spot in NYI, which in all likelihood he is, someone who already projects to be among the top nine is going to be shipped out.

That may simply mean Nino Niederreiter goes back to the WHL for another year. However, if that's the case, Garth Snow will be short of the cap floor by ~$1.7M (using 23 players, projecting RFA center Josh Bailey at $1.3M).

Another alternative is trading Josh Bailey for a needed top six defenseman, and keeping Nino up with the big club. Under that scenario, the cap floor is reached if the returning player from trading Bailey is has a cap hit of at least $800K. The danger in trading Bailey is that he plays center, and depleting the team of a top nine pivot could be the equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot.

Snow is obviously cognizant of Frans Nielsen's situation. The underpaid Dane will be a UFA next summer, and will command a salary and term much larger ($4M x 5Y) than he's currently receiving (which is close to the league minimum), as he looks to make up for "lost" dollars. With no new arena or revenues, NYI will most likely not want to pay a third line center that kind of dough, considering they own the rights to the newly drafted and highly regarded, Ryan Strome, who projects as a top six center. More economically prudent for NYI would instead be to get Bailey under contract now at ~$1M per year, for the next two or three years (similar to Nielsen situation the past three seasons).

Frans Nielsen
That could leave Frans Nielsen as trade bait if Nino is staying. Yes its possible, but I don't think so. NYI is not going to jeopardize their center ice strength at this juncture, when they are finally close to becoming once again a playoff caliber team. Instead, NYI will likely use their position of strength at the wings to potentially land a desirable top four defenseman.

NYI Point Blank publisher, Chris Botta, said last month that based on a source, "another Hockey Move on the way...Rolston trade said to be prelude to a bigger deal." He also added, "for what it’s worth, we were also told that we’re going to like this one."

Now that move has yet to happen. However in a more recent report from Botta, an undisclosed scout (who is may very well be the original source), inferred the move didn't happen for a lack of effort: “Snowy is not done...I know he tried all summer to add a d-man...There’s still time left. Good players will be available during camp in trades and on the wire" (assuming Edmonton doesn't pick him up since they have first right to claim a waived player).

New York Islanders
Left WingCapGPPTOICenterCapGPPTOIRight WingCapGPPTOI
Matt Moulson$3.1825318:52John Tavares$3.8796719:15PA Parenteau$1.3815318:13
Brian Rolston$5.1653417:36Joshua Bailey~1.3702817:50Blake Comeau$2.5774618:41
Michael Grabner$3.0765215:04Frans Nielsen$0.5714417:45Kyle Okposo$2.8382016:34
Matt Martin$0.9681410:57Marty Reasoner$1.4823217:09N. Niederreiter$2.89213:35
Micheal Haley$0.62738:01
Left DefenseCapGPPTOIRight DefenseCapGPPTOIGoalCapGPWSV%
Mark Streit^$4.1824925:41Mark Eaton$2.534320:21Rick DiPietro$4.5268.886
A. MacDonald$0.6602723:24Travis Hamonic$0.9622621:34Al Montoya$0.6209.921
Mike Mottau$0.820320:20Milan Jurcina$1.6461718:04Evgeni Nabokov^$0.67144.922
Ty Wishart$0.820516:49
PosNot IncludedCapGPPTOI
FJeremy Colliton$0.615311:53
FJ. DiBenedetto$0.5819:03
FTrevor Gillies$0.63923:04
DDylan Reese$0.627614:48
DMark Katic$0.911116:25
Salary Cap$64,300,000Alexei Yashin$2.2Buyout
Cap Payroll$48,804,91623 playersBrendan Witt$0.8Buyout
Cap Space$15,495,084Roster Bonuses$3.2Total
Floor Clearance$504,916$48.3M
~ estimate | ^ previous season stats

Blake Comeau
So if Bailey and Nielsen are unlikely to depart, who does that leave GM Garth Snow as his optimal trading piece? You guessed it, one Mr. Blake Comeau.

As a 25G/25A top six winger, Comeau is the one expendable NYI player with enough trade value to return a top six/four d-man. Also, despite the fact that he is on only a one year contract, he will be again only an RFA next off-season -- which helps maintain his trade value.

Comeau hammered out that one-year deal with Snow after both narrowly avoided player-elected arbitration. I've already speculated at length on Comeau's seemingly lack of desire to remain in Long Island longterm in my  "Kelowna Connection" post.

Kyle Okposo agreed to a longterm deal with NYI last year. And even newly acquired waiver wire pick up, Michael Grabner, got a longterm deal just a few months ago. Yet Blake Comeau, who is NYI drafted and developed,  opted for arbitration. What's up with that? It would seem obvious, Comeau sees an alternate longterm destination in his future.

Back to Josh Bailey. There's still the matter of his contract. How much will he get? One thing for sure, he will make more than he did last season once you factor out the ELC bonuses, which inflate a player's cap hit. Bailey's actual salary for the last three years has been $875K. To retain Bailey's rights, all Snow had to do was issue him a standard ELC qualifying offer which includes a 5% raise. Bailey rejected that qualify offer worth $918,750.

It's obvious then that Bailey and his agent believe his services are worth more than $900K per year. And I for one, tend to agree with them. If we look at the contract recently signed by a similar player in Phoenix, Mikkel Boedker, we may be able to get a gauge on Bailey's value. Boedker was selected one spot above Bailey in the 2008 draft. He to received the same QO from PHX that Bailey got NYI, and Boedker too rejected it.

RFA Comparison
PlayerGPGAPtsPts/GPPIMELC CapActual SlryNew Deal
Mikkel Boedker (F)12616294536%26 $1.725M  $875K 2 years x $1.1M
Josh Bailey (F)21134548842%71 $1.725M  $875K ?

Bailey has more games in the NHL but only a slightly higher points per game rate than Boedker. There is little doubt his agent is utilizing these sorts of comparisons to get his client a contract superior to the Islander's QO. In fact, if they are also looking for a two year deal, I'd estimate it to be higher than Boedker's, at least by a small margin. In other words, I expect Bailey to sign anywhere from $1.1M to $1.5M. As a result, I used $1.3M in the projections above.

Now then, how about some conclusions:
  1. Josh Bailey: he will get his deal in the $1.3M range. He'll likely be the #2 center this season if he steps up his game and reverses the regression trend he showed last year.
  2. Frans Nielsen: he will remain on the Island this season to be the #3 center, but likely leave next year as a UFA for greener pastures.
  3. Nino Niedereiter: in all likelihood, he will make the team as a top nine forward. Rolston will be gone as a UFA next season (and perhaps PA Parenteau as well). Therefore, NYI needs to begin Nino's  acclimatization process immediately.
  4. Blake Comeau: the odds are he will get dealt in the next 30 to 60 days for that much coveted top four defenseman. I think that will suit him just fine if his recent choices are any indication. 
  5. Mystery D-man: if its one that comes in a trade, I have some educated guesses of my own regarding who that top six/four d-man will be.

Bryan McCabe
Failing that though, Snow will likely throw a contract in the direction of Bryan McCabe.

In that same Point Blank report, Botta quoted another scout saying, “I know for a fact that Garth offered a training camp invite this month to a pretty good veteran, but he turned it down for now. To me, that’s a sign Garth is trying to do whatever he can within his limitations.

"He has to know he needs more if he really wants his team to finally make a big splash this season. It’s good for business and it’s good for arena negotiations.” Botta added, "An educated guess at the veteran who turned down the camp invitation ”for now” – Long Island resident Bryan McCabe."

McCabe is holding out for a real contract not just a tryout. Snow isn't going to give him a contract though, until other avenues of acquiring a superior upgrade have been exhausted. The wait continues...


  1. I don't know where you get your information but Nielson isn't leaving for greener pastures. I wish people would do there research before posting stories about the Islanders. There is so much fail in this story.

  2. Shawn - I've done enough research to know how to spell Nielsen's name correctly ;)

    NYI just drafted a #2 center (with #1 upside). Plus they have Bailey now signed at $1.05M per season (which by the way is almost identical to the comparable I presented in the article).

    Nielsen is not going to sign a measly $2M/yr contract from the Isles. And Snow isn't going to give him $4M/yr, nor some front loaded Buffalo style contract.