The New York Islanders have signed restricted free agent defenseman Ryan Pulock to a new two-year contract. The deal, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, will carry an average annual value of $5MM. Pulock had a salary arbitration hearing scheduled for later this week, which will no longer be necessary. Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic provides the full breakdown:
- 2020-21: $2.26MM salary + $740K signing bonus
- 2021-22: $5.16MM salary + $1.5MM signing bonus
Because he is an unassuming piece of the Islanders defensive puzzle, you may not realize just how good Pulock has been over the last several years. Over the last three seasons, Pulock ranks 33rd in scoring among NHL defensemen with 104 points in 218 games, 21st in goals with 23. That already puts him in the upper-echelon of offensive blueliners, but given he also brings a steady defensive stick and physical presence it’s hard not to wonder why he gets so little league-wide praise.
With a $5MM price tag, perhaps he’ll start getting his due as one of the better defensemen in the league and a leader on the Islanders back end. The concerning part for New York fans, is how long he’ll stay a part of that Islanders back end.
A two-year contract means that Pulock will reach unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2022 when he is just 27 years old. If he’s not re-signed by then, he’ll be one of the youngest free agents on the market and likely able to command a huge, long-term offer. Should his offensive production continue, there’s a chance he even would be one of the very best free agents available at any position.
Still, for now he can provide strong play for a reasonable price and fits into an Islanders financial situation that will have a chance to reset itself in a few years. Pulock, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Thomas Hickey are now all on contracts that expire following the 2021-22 season, meaning the team will have the option to build their defense around a different—and likely younger—core.
Because Pulock was the Islanders final arbitration case, they will now receive a 24-hour buyout window that will open on Friday. They can only buy out players that have a cap hit of at least $4MM.