At this point of the summer, most teams have conducted the bulk of their offseason business. As the draft fades into the background and the majority of unrestricted free agents find homes, finalizing restricted free agent (RFA) contracts and dealing with salary arbitration represents the last piece of business before training camp opens in September.
After re-signing Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier is the next member of the 2018-19 New York Islanders who needs a new deal.
The Islanders are walking a tightrope between salary cap flexibility and cap hell. The team has approximately $8.6 million remaining for the 2019-20 season, with only Beauvillier and fellow RFAs Josh Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle remaining to be signed. However, looking ahead to next off-season, Mathew Barzal, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews will be RFAs, which could put a strain on the Islanders’ salary cap situation in the years ahead.
Positives in Beauvillier’s Game
Beauvillier has shown flashes of high-end skill since he surprisingly made the team out of training camp as an 19-year-old in 2016-17. The 28th pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft has proven to be a solid value pick from a deep draft that featured bona fide NHL regulars like Connor McDavid, Kyle Connor, Mikko Rantanen, Jack Eichel, Sebastian Aho, Brock Boeser, Thomas Chabot, Zach Werenski, Ivan Provorov and Mitch Marner.
Beauvillier has a knack for the net, as he has scored 21 and 18 goals the previous two seasons. Also in the prior two seasons, he had a shooting percentage of 15.91% and 11.54%, respectively. He is able to get himself into high-danger scoring areas and was on the ice for 31 goals scored in those areas, an improvement over 23 goals in the same area scored the prior season. Barry Trotz favors shot quality over shot quantity, so Beauvillier is improving in that area.
Areas for Improvement
Despite showing some goal-scoring ability, he has struggled to solidify his position as a top-six forward as he has lacked consistency. In each of two seasons, he struggled to drive play and ultimately put pucks on net, posting Corsi numbers below 50%; this despite playing primarily with Barzal, Eberle and Josh Bailey over the past two seasons.
This is compounded by the fact that Beauvillier earned an O-Zone start percentage of 66.53%. When not playing with Beauvillier, both Barzal and Eberle saw improvements to their overall Corsi numbers.
That’s not to say that Beauvillier is a detriment to the line. In 2017-18, he and Barzal formed a very solid second line for the Islanders and were one of the team’s better storylines. However, in 2018-19, it seemed as though he did not take a step forward, which is disappointing for a 21-year-old former first-round draft pick.
Expectations for the 2019-20 Season
It stands to reason that the Islanders are very bullish on Beauvillier, and unless he is moved as a piece in a larger deal, he will be counted on to be a key contributor for the next few seasons. He has proven that he belongs in the NHL, but has yet to truly carve out a defined role for himself.
Through his first three seasons, Beauvillier has a comparable score to two players: Andreas Athanasiou and Charlie Coyle. In their fourth professional seasons, Athanasiou made a major leap forward putting up 34 goals and 54 points, and Coyle put up 21 goals and 21 assists. If Beauvillier’s shooting percentage can increase by a few points, and he can gain some power-play time and continue to get to high-danger scoring areas, 25 goals and 20 assists seems reasonable.
This season feels like a real make or break one for Beauvillier. He needs to prove that he can handle a top-six forward role and be a playmaker on the power play. However, I struggle to see the Islanders making any sort of long-term commitment at this point in his career. The team has several high-end wing prospects in Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows and 2019 first-round draft pick Simon Holmstrom.
I can see both parties agreeing to a two-year bridge deal, with an average annual value of about $1.75 million. The salary could be broken down to $1.5 million in 2019-20 and $2 million in 2020-21. This gives the Islanders one more year of control before he is an unrestricted free agent, and gives the player arbitration rights in his last year of restricted free agency before being free to leave the following season.