New York Islanders Must Get Off the (Salary) Floor...With Ilya Kovalchuk?

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New York Islanders Must Get Off the (Salary) Floor...With Ilya Kovalchuk?
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In yesterday's post I talked about wanting to see the Islanders spend a little above the salary floor. Then I thought, "That's easy for you to say, Mr. Moneybags, spending Charles Wang's hard-earned cash like that."

So I decided to crunch the numbers and try to determine how much I more I want the team to spend, and what would need to happen to cover that extra investment. It's a good thing I like math.

The NHL salary cap in 2010-22 is $59.4 million, with a salary floor of $43.4 million. According to NHLnumbers.com , the Islanders have almost $32.5 committed for next season, leaving them $11 million below the floor.

I'd like them to spend more, but how much more can we realistically ask? Halfway to the cap is $51.4 million, but there is no way that the Islanders would crack the $50 million mark, for psychological reasons alone.

What about $48 million? That’s not quite $5 million above the floor, enough to sign an impact free agent, either a scorer or a first-line defenseman. That would mean the Islanders would have $16 million to spend before the season starts, on free agents or re-signing players. You could do some damage with $16 million.

The Islanders must spend the floor, so we're asking Mr. Wang to cough up an extra $5 million. Presumably, that money would add talent and make the team more successful, and more wins equals more fans, right? So how many more fans would need to show up at the Coliseum to cover that extra investment?

Last season the Isles drew an average of 12,735 to home games, or 78.1 percent of capacity. That put them 29th in the league in average attendance and 27th overall in percent of capacity.

The average ticket price last year was about $51.50 (I hear the prices are going up, but we'll use that figure). To get an extra $5 million, the Islanders would need to sell 97,000 more tickets, or about 2,400 per home game.

Assuming attendance this year would otherwise be about the same next season, those extra tickets would boost average attendance to 15,135, or 92.8 percent of capacity. Those figures would place the Islanders 21st in average attendance, or 20th in percent capacity.

In other words, we're not asking for much in terms of an attendance boost. It's not as if the Isles would need to sell out every game to cover that extra payroll expense. We'd just need the attendance to go from pathetic to slightly below average. Aim high!

That doesn't factor in that the Islanders' new sub-lease gives them more money from parking and concessions, or the fact that the team is benefiting from controlling all events at the Coliseum, including concerts.

Mo' money, mo' money, mo' money.

Which is to say, the Islanders in 2010-11 are in a much better revenue-generating position than they were when the 2009-10 season started.

So it is really that much to ask them to spend a little more on talent, knowing that they're going to make more money anyway, and that a better team will almost certainly produce enough of an attendance increase to justify the expense? And could you imagine if the team actually made the playoffs?

Of course, the easiest way to get off the floor—and draw more fans—is to spend $10 million a year on someone like, oh, Ilya Kovalchuk. And on Friday night, the news (rumors) started breaking that the Isles were pursuing Kovalchuk with the Kings. Then Snow confirmed the interest with Newsday.

Seems that Wang things a big gun like Kovalchuk would help push the Lighthouse forward or get some kind of deal done. And he's not been shy about big contracts for a marquee player.

Kovalchuk would certainly add a serious weapon, take pressure off Tavares and Moulson, and put fannies in the seats. Presumably, it would help the team win more games, creating the kind of juice that could ultimately help Wang get something close to what he wants regarding the Lighthouse.

Or maybe that's too much to ask.

Realistically, the Islanders don't even need A-list free agents. They don't need any "name" players to build marketing around because we already have Tavares, Okposo, Bailey, Weight, and (if he ever sees the ice again) DiPietro.

What the team does need is legitimate NHL talent to fill its needs, particularly a top-line defenseman and a top-six forward.

This team is getting close. There is lots of young talent here and the coaching and front office are on the right track with a plan. The fans are ready to see the team take the next step.

Kovalchuk would be one hell of a step.

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