On July 2, the Islanders signed free agent Doug Weight to a one-year contract. The deal called for a base salary of $1.75 million, but with bonuses the playmaking center could make up to $4.3 million.
As a player signing a one-year contract past his 35th birthday - he is 37 – Weight was eligible for such a bonus package. The Islanders were happy to give the veteran the incentives for two reasons. For starters, they would be properly rewarding Weight if his offensive statistics rebounded closer to his career averages after a 25-point output in 2007-2008. With 21 points (4-17-21) in his first 21 games this season for the Islanders, the move has paid off for both team and player.
But there was additional strategy behind the Weight incentives package. As a player over age 35 and on a one-year deal, those bonuses counted towards the Islanders’ salary cap number. And Weight’s deal – along with the signing of Mark Streit to a deal averaging $4.1 million – took the Islanders above the salary cap “floor” as mandated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
For the 2008-09 season the NHL salary cap is $56.7 million. A less-heralded fact is that teams must meet a minimum player payroll – the salary cap “floor” – of $40.7 million. While it is unclear to the penny how much the Islanders are currently above the floor, a league source estimated the figure at $2 million.
Since Mike Comrie (’08-09 salary: $4 million) began the season slowly and is now on Injured Reserve while the team gives his surgically-repaired hip more time to heal, the point may be moot. But for fans wondering if the Islanders could trade the No. 2 center for a prospect or a draft pick, the answer is clear.
Even if the Islanders wanted to move Comrie for a pick, they could not right now. In just about any major deal the Islanders make, they will need to bring back approximately equal (or more) dollars in salary than they unload.
As a result, it is highly unlikely Islanders fans will see the departure of any veterans in the next two months – whether rehabbing from injuries (Comrie, Mike Sillinger) or thriving (Weight, Bill Guerin).
The only question that remains is whether one or more of those players is moved closer to the trade deadline. That, of course, will depend on how the players are performing and – just as important, if not more so – where the Islanders are in the Eastern Conference standings.
Make no mistake, the rebuilding Islanders were wise to not Overspend in the offseason. At a surprising-to-some 9-10-2 and in the mix for a playoff berth, if the franchise’s biggest problem is staying a dollar over the salary cap floor, they’re in good shape. And should the Islanders want to add a significant player instead of deleting one, they are in as good a position as any team in the Eastern Conference.
By the looks of how they and the team are currently playing (5-1 in their last 6), Weight and Guerin aren’t going anywhere this season. As for players such as Comrie and Sillinger, time will tell. We do know those moves aren’t going to be made anytime soon. Because of the requirement to exceed the salary cap floor, they cannot be.
ETC: Except for players rehabbing injuries, the Islanders were given today off. Expect last night’s lineup tomorrow when the Islanders host Sid, Geno and the Penguins on March of Dimes Night at the Coliseum…Doug Weight is now 10 points away from NHL point 1,000.
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