The New York Islanders re-signed defenseman Ryan Pulock to a two-year deal yesterday, with a $5 million AAV.
While a few months ago it seemed more likely that Pulock could get a six, seven or even eight-year deal, the current market almost certainly forced a shorter contract. In a different year, perhaps the Islanders would have been able to clear cap space earlier in order to sign Pulock to a long-term deal. However, with few teams willing to take on extra salary at the moment, the price was likely too high for the Islanders to move their most expensive bad contract, which is Johnny Boychuk.
Pulock's deal is somewhat of an interesting contract because there are few comparables for it, given that most top-four defensemen would sign a longer deal at Pulock’s age. Two comparables I could find were Ryan Murray and Darnell Nurse (though Nurse will actually be a year younger for the start of his deal).
Below are stats from each player, which include their points per 82 game average in their contract year, as well as their career points per 82 average and then their average ice time in their contract year. Nurse's contract was signed midway through the year, so his stats are from his first 55 games of the 2019-20 season, before he signed his extension on February 10.
Obviously, this is a pretty quick breakdown but it shows that Pulock's AAV realistically could've been higher. Pulock had better production in his contract year than Nurse, as well as his career overall, and was averaging only slightly less ice time than Nurse.
A shorter deal was probably New York’s best option to navigate their current cap situation. Getting Pulock at $5 million a year, even if just for two years, is a great price for the defenseman and the low AAV will help them save some space to put towards re-signing Mathew Barzal. This way, the Islanders may be able to move a contract with a lower AAV than Boychuk’s $6 million, like Cal Clutterbuck, and use what’s left to sign Barzal to a short-term bridge-deal.
A short-term deal for Pulock doesn’t come free of downside, however, as the Islanders will have to be prepared to pay up if they want to extend Pulock in 2022. If Pulock continues to perform the way he has over the last couple seasons, he’s likely to attract a ton of interest from teams in need of a legitimate top-pairing defenseman. It’s not necessarily a cause for concern, considering the Islanders will have a number of contracts coming off the books in 2022, but we know that next time, New York will need to be prepared to offer an expensive, long-term deal.
Regardless, this is a deal that works well for both sides and keeps Pulock around for two more years at a very reasonable price. While a longer contract would have been great, this was a good deal for Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
How many points do you expect from Ryan Pulock next season?