Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech was one of 17 NHL players to file for arbitration Sunday, while goalie Ilya Sorokin and winger Anthony Beauvillier did not despite being arbitration eligible.
As one of the Islanders’ three restricted free agents, it makes sense that Pelech would elect arbitration considering he is expected to come out of this offseason with the most lucrative deal. General manager Lou Lamoriello likely wants to avoid going into arbitration with one of the Islanders’ top defensemen, which is why negotiations should wrap up before hearings take place Aug. 11-26.
Filing for arbitration is just part of the process, as there is now a deadline for negotiations to wrap up before the two parties have to sit in front of an arbitrator. Last year, 25 of the 26 players who filed for arbitration reached a deal with their respective team before having a hearing, including Pelech’s defensive partner, Ryan Pulock.
The Islanders currently have around $17.6 million in cap space, per CapFriendly, but that’s without the slew of deals Lamoriello reportedly has in place that have yet to be announced. While Pelech is due for a substantial raise from his previous $1.6 million cap hit, Lamoriello has to be financially aware in order to sign Sorokin, Beauvillier and also somehow fit in key free agents Casey Cizikas, Kyle Palmieri and maybe Travis Zajac.
Beauvillier might become a trade piece; Cizikas might take a team-friendly deal. Veteran defenseman Andy Greene is also believed to be in on another one-year contract and Sorokin expressed confidence in a deal getting done soon in a recent interview with the Russian outlet Sport Express. Plus, the Islanders have been linked to free agents Zach Parise and Vladimir Tarasenko.
But by not announcing any moves, Lamoriello is seemingly playing his cards close to his chest in order to make it all work. Pelech, however, is likely the top priority of the reigning two-time GM of the Year.
“We’ve lost two players. We have, hopefully, no intention of losing any more.” Lamoriello said, referring to trading Nick Leddy to Detroit and losing Jordan Eberle to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. “Right now, we’re focused on the signings. If we need more cap room, then we’ll have to make other decisions.”
As one-half of the team’s top defensive pair, Pelech is a major part of the Islanders’ core that reached the Stanley Cup semifinals the past two seasons. He is a pure shutdown defenseman who dictates the pace of play and draws a bulk of the matchups with opponents’ top lines alongside Pulock.
Pelech, who is set to turn 27 later this month, is expected to earn around $6 million per year on his next deal, depending on the term. Some of the other deals signed by top defensemen this offseason, however, indicate Pelech could earn more than that.
The Blackhawks acquired Seth Jones, who will turn 27 in October, from the Blue Jackets and subsequently signed him to an eight-year, $76 million deal. The 28-year-old Dougie Hamilton inked a seven-year, $63 million deal with the Devils. On the younger side of the league, Cale Makar, 22, got a six-year, $54 million extension from the Avalanche, while Zach Werenski, 24, signed a six-year, $57.5 million extension to remain in Columbus.
The four aforementioned defensemen certainly bring more offensively, but their value to their respective teams equates to how the Islanders view Pelech.