Eyebrows were raised on Friday when New York Islanders grinder Cal Clutterbuck got a five-year extension worth $17.5-million. Citing his aggressive style and age, hockey pundits across the web marked it as the third bad contract Isles general manager Garth Snow has signed in six months, with the Casey Cizikas and Andrew Ladd deals as the other two. Regardless of how you feel about the deal, however, its impact on the team is hard to ignore.
Clutterbuck’s deal is worth $3.5 million AAV and some may see that as a heck of a lot to pay for a guy who only scored 15 goals last season. As a matter of fact, Clutterbuck has never topped 20 goals or 40 points. But stats don’t tell the whole story when it comes to the Islanders’ assistant captain. The team’s only real physical presence, Clutterbuck is also one of their best penalty killers and as evidenced by his play this season, can play on any line.
Much like Cizikas, Clutterbuck is a heart and soul player that make the Isles difficult to play against. Considering the way the team fared before their recent 6-2-2 stretch, they’d be in far better shape if they had a few more players like Clutterbuck and Cizikas.
Reportedly a favorite of Islanders captain John Tavares, Clutterbuck’s signing could be a way to sweeten the pot to keep Tavares in Brooklyn when his contract runs out next year.
Clutterbuck Not the Isles Problem Right Now
With the under-performing Nikolay Kulemin getting over $4 million this season and Josh Bailey having what at this point looks like a career year and earning $3.75 million, the Islanders need to find a way to dump salary and make moves to get players who can help them win. Clutterbuck has proven in the past that he can do that, while Kulemin has not. Bailey has finally begun to produce, on pace for a near-50-point season, so do the Islanders keep him around or trade while his stock is high? Ryan Strome’s inconsistency this season has been well-documented as well. Should the Islanders make a deal that gets them more offensive support?
Clutterbuck has proven in the past that he can do that, while Kulemin has not. Bailey has finally begun to produce, on pace for a near-50-point season, so do the Islanders keep him around or trade him while his stock is high? Ryan Strome’s inconsistency this season has been well-documented as well. Should the Islanders make a deal that gets them more offensive support?
Deal Changes the Future
While Clutterbuck’s new deal gives the team even less salary cap wiggle room moving forward, with Ladd, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk all locked up long term, the Islanders have a bevy of youth on their American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport, and of course, the promising Ilya Sorokin in net in the KHL. It seems at this point that Snow wants to keep his blue collar core intact and is willing to pay them a handsome salary to stay.
If the Islanders don’t shed some salary over the next few years and lock up vets like Tavares and Travis Hamonic, they’ll be all lunch pail and no top-shelf talent. Already at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division standings, Clutterbuck’s extension won’t be the rocket that changes their season but could prevent them from being the team they need to be to get to the playoffs for a third consecutive season.