Cap comparables: Eberle takes pay cut to stay with Islanders

Jordan Eberle goes short side and somehow gets the puck past Matt Murray from a tough angle and even smaller window.

NHL free agency became slightly less interesting on Friday when the New York Islanders and pending unrestricted free agent Jordan Eberle agreed to a five-year, $27.5-million contract.

Eberle was eligible to become one of the more intriguing names available on the open market July 1 but Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello — not wanting to lose another high-profile forward for nothing two summers in a row — locked him up to a deal both parties are pleased with.

“The whole time my mindset was to try to get a deal done with Long Island,” Eberle told reporters on a Friday conference call. “I liked it there, I enjoyed the community, the playoffs were great. I liked the direction of where the team is going. I love the way that we play. I think the biggest aspect of our team is just the camaraderie that we have and how tight knit of a group [we have]. I think that’s why we’re a good team.”

The 29-year-old is a proven top-six talent who rounded out his game defensively in 2018-19 under head coach Barry Trotz. Although Eberle put up the worst offensive numbers of his career (on a per-game basis) in the regular season, he was impactful with a team-high nine points in eight post-season games.

Eberle even took a $500,000 annual pay cut on this new deal, which is somewhat unusual for a player of his calibre. From a team perspective, it’s certainly beneficial, because whenever a player who’s hovering around 30 years old signs long-term with a somewhat substantial salary-cap hit (Eberle’s is now $5.5 million annually through 2024), there’s always an inherent risk.

For example, here are some wingers in Eberle’s age range who in the past three years inked similar deals to the one he just signed.

— Josh Bailey: six years, $30 million, $5-million cap hit
— Jakob Silfverberg: five years, $26.25 million, $5.25-million cap hit
— Patric Hornqvist: five years, $26.5 million, $5.3-million cap hit
— Andrew Ladd: seven years, $38.5 million, $5.5-million cap hit
— James Neal: five years, $28.75 million, $5.75-million cap hit
— Alex Steen: four years, $23 million, $5.75-million cap hit
— Loui Eriksson: six years, $36 million, $6-million cap hit
— Milan Lucic: seven years, $42 million, $6-million cap hit
— Kyle Okposo: seven years, $42 million, $6-million cap hit

All players above were between 28-31 years of age when they signed and not all of them have maintained their status quo ante since signing those deals.

Silfverberg is the only player on that list who hasn’t already burned at least one year of his deal (he signed an extension back in March) but every other player had a dip in production the year after signing.

What the Islanders don’t want to see with Eberle is the type of stark decline in year-over-year production like what’s happened with Eriksson and Lucic in particular because front offices can see the difficult position those contracts have put both Vancouver and Edmonton in.

Islanders captain Anders Lee is also a pending UFA that Lamoriello and company will have to make a decision on in the coming weeks.

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