Islanders sign Ryan Pulock to two-year contract
Restricted free agent gets $10 million in new deal
The New York Islanders have emerged as a legitimate Eastern Conference contender over the past several years due mostly to their stinginess in the defensive zone.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t like to get a bit of scoring from their blueliners as well.
Ryan Pulock, New York’s most offensive defenseman, proved that point Wednesday when the Isles re-signed the three-year veteran to a two-year deal worth a reported $10 million.
Pulock, who has led all New York defensemen in scoring over the past two years, amassing 31 goals and 108 points during his three full seasons with the team after being selected 15th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, avoided a scheduled arbitration hearing scheduled for Friday.
He was counting $2 million per year against the salary cap prior to his new deal.
“Obviously I haven’t been in this position before and with arbitration and that whole situation, I think in all matters teams and players, you don’t want to get that far,” Pulock revealed.
“I’m really happy that we can get the deal done and obviously really excited to be back for two more years. This team has come a long way and the future is bright, so it’s exciting.”
Pulock had two goals and eight assists during the Isles’ deepest playoff run since 1993 this past season, helping New York reach the Eastern Conference finals before it fell in six tough games to eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay.
The 26-year-old Manitoba native was instrumental during the Isles’ run at their first Cup title since 1983. He had two goals and eight assists in 22 playoff contests.
“That road is special,” Pulock said of the postseason.
“I think whenever you can get to a point like that, you know it takes a lot to get there. The team we had, and just the type of guys in that room, I think, made it that much more special.”
By bringing back Pulock, team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello shaved the number of pending restricted free agents of note on the roster to one.
But that one is arguably the team’s most valuable asset, 23-year-old All-Star center Mathew Barzal, who led the Isles with 60 points (19 goals, 41 assists) during the COVID-19 abbreviated 2019-20 campaign.
Lamoriello barely has $4 million remaining to give under the NHL’s $81.5 million salary cap for next year. However, the Hall of Fame executive is doubtlessly busy shedding some of that money in anticipation of signing Barzal to a long-term, lucrative deal.
Pulock, who had 35 points during this past regular season, came to terms with the only organization he has ever known. He also is aware that the Isles must make room for Barzal if they are to continue chasing Lord Stanley’s coveted chalice come 2021.
“I think the big thing for us was just trying to make something work that was good for both teams in terms of the [NHL salary] cap and the flat cap and that we felt we were comfortable what we’re doing,” Pulock said.
“And then just being able to get something done, and then down the road here in the future, we can hopefully work on something else. I think that the big thing in the deal was just really trying to make it work for both sides.”
Pulock hopes the same can be done for his friend Barzal, who is also three full seasons into what should be a stellar career with New York, which is still a season away from moving into its new UBS Arena adjacent to the legendary Belmont Race Track in Elmont, N.Y.
“We talk, obviously we’re good friends. We talk,” Pulock said of Barzal Wednesday during a Zoom teleconference.
“We both obviously want to make it work so that we can keep everyone together. I think that’s the main goal. We want to win together, we want to keep this team together.”
Doing so will require some deft bookkeeping from Lamoriello, who showed he could build a winner during his time with the New Jersey Devils, who he helped guide to three Stanley Cup championships as well as an additional Finals appearance.
The Isles could be on the precipice of a similar run, if, of course, Barzal joins Pulock in re-signing with the team.
“Right now, we’re certainly exploring each and every situation that potentially can take place,” Lamoriello said back in September.
“But the last resort, if there is such a word, would be doing something certainly that you’d rather not do. But I’m reasonably comfortable that we’ll be able to accomplish what we want to accomplish and have the team that we want to put on the ice once the season starts.”
Lamoriello and the Isles will all be much more comfortable once they have Barzal signed and ready to go for next year.
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