How big a raise can the Isles give Andrew MacDonald?

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According to ESPN New York, “preliminary” negotiations are underway between the New York Islanders and defenseman Andrew MacDonald.

Which begs the question: How much more is MacDonald going to get paid?

One of the NHL’s best bargains — four years at $2.2 million, a $550,000 cap hit — MacDonald leads all Isles defensemen in assists (19), points (22), time on ice per game (25:43) and blocked shots (159).  He’s been one of the club’s most durable players over the last three years and serves as an alternate captain.

So, simply put, he’s in line for a big raise.

Of course, things aren’t that simple.

The Isles aren’t a spend-to-the-cap team, currently operating under the NHL’s second-lowest payroll, and New York’s history of retaining UFA blueliners doesn’t shed much insight — last year they re-upped with Lubomir Visnovsky, but cut ties with Mark Streit.

What’s more, the club has a slew of young defensemen — Travis Hamonic, Aaron Ness, Calvin de Haan, Matt Donovan — and some really talented blueliners on the way in Griffin Reinhart, Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield, Ville Pokka and Adam Pelech.

(The Isles, lest we forget, drafted seven defensemen in 2012.)

From McDonald’s perspective, he wields a pretty big stick. The prospect of a 27-year-old UFA defenseman with his resume hitting the open market is tantalizing, especially in a year where the cap will rise (to a projected $71.1 million.)

So maybe the above question needs a new spin. The query might not be how much Andrew MacDonald is going to get paid  — it might be which club will show him the money.