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New York Islanders

Top 4 D-men Signed Through 2024-25, Did They Sign 6th D?



New York Islanders, Noah Dobson, Lou Lamoriello
New York Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson and forward Brock Nelson warming up before battling the Dallas Stars on Apr. 5 (Photo-via NY Islanders Instagram)

On Monday, the New York Islanders locked up three restricted free agents, two being a pair of defensemen in Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov.

With those two locked up, the New York Islanders now have their top-four defensemen locked and loaded through the 2024-25 season.

What’s even better for the “aging” Islanders is that the average age of their top-four defensemen is a tad under 25.

Last offseason, 28-year-old Adam Pelech agreed to an eight-year deal worth $46 million, which carries an annual cap hit of $5.75 million. That deal was signed before Pelech’s All-Star 2021-22 season, in which he showcased more offense than ever before, with a career-high 25 assists, 28 points.

Pelech is the Islanders’ clear-cut no. 1 defenseman, known for his ability to use his stick to his advantage, as more often than not you will catch him poking the puck off the opposition’s stick as soon as they cross the Islanders’ blue line.

And if that player is fortunate enough to get into the Islanders zone, Pelech is a mastermind at keeping them to the outside and running them into the corner.

27-year-old Ryan Pulock missed significant time in 2021-22 after signing an eight-year extension last summer worth $49.2 M. That deal carries an annual cap hit of $6.15 M.

Pulock missed 26 games this past season, 25 due to a lower-body injury. Prior to the injury, which occurred on Nov. 15 (Game 12) after blocking a short-handed chance against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pulock had yet to light the lamp and had just two assists.

His greatest asset is his cannon of a shot but his inability to hit the net consistently truly limited his offensive output.

When he returned from injury, it took him a little bit to regain his form. Former head coach Barry Trotz gave Pulock adequate time on the third pairing, easing him back into playing every day to make sure his leg was 100%.

In 17 March games, Pulock notched three goals and seven assists before two goals and four assists in 15 April contests to close out the season. He definitely ended on a good note and now completely healthy, should play to the level expected of him, as the no. 2 guy behind Adam Pelech.

As for Noah Dobson, the 22-year-old has shown to be an offensive force from the backend, not just in transition but with his shot as well. He is coming off a 13-goal, 38-point season, a career-best with his game not really taking off until December.

It’s crazy even to be writing this, but Noah Dobson actually led the New York Islanders in shots on goal in 2021-22, with 190. Brock Nelson came in second place, with 171.

Imagine his stat line and quite frankly where the New York Islanders would have been if his career-best season started a few months earlier in October.

And after getting a nice raise for the next three years, Dobson needs to not only play to that level offensively but needs to shore up his defensive game. He did tell the media on Monday that he got stronger this offseason, as that should help him win more puck battles and gain strong positioning while defending the Islanders’ goal.

Last but not least, 22-year-old Alexander Romanov who was brought in by the New York Islanders for the 13th pick at the 2022 NHL Draft. He officially signed a three-year, $7.5 million deal on Monday, with an annual cap hit of $2.5 million.

Romanov is a player that will get the New York Islanders faithful out of their seats, as he hits like a truck, but is also a rather talented skater whose game is more defensive, but still has the tools to provide offense.

More on Romanov’s game after a chat with Marco D’Amico of Montreal Hockey Now:

Reasons to be Excited About Alexander Romanov

Romanov is coming off a season where he scored just three goals with 10 assists on a lousy Montreal Canadiens team. In his second NHL season, Romanov was a minutes eater, playing over 20:24 minutes per game.

But before Martin St. Louis took over behind the Montreal bench, Romanov was only being used sparingly, in more defensive situations. St. Louis allowed him more leeway to play his game and that allowed him to enter the offseason with a ton of confidence in his game.

By no means is Romanov a finished product, but the Islanders may have made dynamite move in acquiring him.

Although we do not know how Lane Lambert will pair off his defenseman, there should be no shock if Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock are separated as the youthful 22-year-olds in Dobson and Romanov should have veteran defensive partners, as mistakes will be made.

Regardless, the New York Islanders’ top four could be one of the best in the NHL and that’s not a stretch. Now the question becomes, who is paired with Scott Mayfield to round out the defense?

On Monday, New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello spoke to the media and was asked about that sixth and final spot on defense.

“We have five quality National Hockey League defensemen and what we have to do is at this point is develop a six defenseman,” Lamoriello said. “And I think we have that in our organization.

“If not, that is an area that can be sort of replaced, at different times.”

As for 45-year-old Zdeno Chara and 39-year-old Andy Greene had this to say:

“I haven’t had any recent conversations with them. We’re planning to go forward unless something changes.

With no additions to the defense besides Alexander Romanov, it seemed that 23-year-old Robin Salo would be battling 26-year-old Sebastian Aho for the final spot. But the acquisition of former first-round pick, 24-year-old Dennis Cholowski adds another name into the hat.

Over his four-year NHL career, Cholowski has not played much with just 115 games under his belt. The 20th overall pick in 2016 (one spot before Kieffer Bellows) has just 10 goals and 20 assists to his name and has struggled to play strong enough in his own zone, leading to limited playing time.

Could the New York Islanders get him back on track?