The New York Islanders have come to terms with Ross Johnston on a four-year contract, which explains why the big forward didn’t file for arbitration when the deadline passed earlier this month. Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports that the deal will carry a $1MM average annual value.
Johnston, 24, is the latest in a series of moves that has added depth to the Islanders forward group. Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula, Tom Kuhnhackl and Matt Martin were already added in the first few days of free agency, and Jan Kovar was signed earlier today out of the KHL. That group will be tasked with giving the team a more balanced attack this season, and perhaps being more responsible defensively after allowing 293 goals last season. Johnston doesn’t come with a tremendous amount of experience, but gives the team another big body to fill out the bottom six.
Undrafted, the 6’5″ 235-lbs Johnston has been in the Islanders system since signing his entry-level contract in 2015. The big bruising winger scored 11 points in 33 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL last season, but was also given an opportunity in the second half with New York. Scoring six points in 24 games including his first three NHL goals, Johnston actually looked more comfortable than many would have believed given his pedestrian numbers in the minor leagues. Where he fits into the roster going forward isn’t clear, but the team apparently felt strongly enough about his play to give him a multi-year contract.
It’s not just Johnston’s spot that isn’t clear in New York. The team now has 14 NHL forwards under contract for next season and an arbitration case pending with Brock Nelson, and still young players like Joshua Ho-Sang ready to make an impact. There are obviously some tough decisions coming this summer and in training camp, though injuries could obviously solve any depth problem before the season begins.