5:37 PM: CapFriendly reports (Twitter link) that the deal will carry a $2MM AAV with Pulock receiving $1.35MM in 2018-19 and $2.65MM in 2019-20. The significant difference between the two years is particularly noteworthy since the $2.65MM figure and not the AAV will represent his qualifying offer in June of 2020.
8:31 AM: The New York Islanders have come to terms with one of their remaining restricted free agents, signing Ryan Pulock to a two-year contract. Pulock finally broke out and became a full-time NHL player last season, but was not eligible for salary arbitration. He will still be a restricted free agent at the end of the deal. No financial details have been released yet.
Pulock, 23, was originally selected 15th overall in 2013 but struggled to find much NHL playing time before the 2017-18 season. He’d shown off his goal scoring ability from the blue line in the minor leagues, but was stuck behind a veteran group in New York that included right-handed options like Johnny Boychuk and Travis Hamonic. When Hamonic was sent to the Calgary Flames last offseason though, an opportunity presented itself for Pulock to show what he could do at the NHL level. In 68 games Pulock scored 32 points and was arguably the Islanders best two-way defenseman, contributing offensively while quickly and effectively getting the puck out of his own end. For such a young and inexperienced player he wasn’t sheltered by head coach Doug Weight, and logged more average ice time than veteran Thomas Hickey, who was also re-signed this offseason.
Under new coach Barry Trotz, Pulock should experience even more growth and responsibility this season and try to follow the development path set by others before him. John Carlson for example was a young offensively minded defenseman with a career-high of 37 points when Trotz came to Washington in 2014. He immediately posted a 55-point season and became one of the Capitals’ stars on the blue line. In his final year under Trotz this season, Carlson set new career-highs with 15 goals and 68 points. Though some of that production also has to do with then-assistant coach Todd Reirden, Pulock will try to be the next right-handed weapon to put up career numbers under Trotz.
While that comparison may seem unfair, Pulock does have some incredible offensive tools that look ready to be unleashed if he’s given a regular spot with New York. The team will have to find new ways of creating scoring chances now that John Tavares has left town, and the new wave of talent led by Mathew Barzal and Pulock will be the driving force behind them. After a solid rookie season, we could see a huge step forward in 2018-19 if Pulock is given the chance.