The New York Islanders got one of their two important free agents out of the way.
Ryan Pulock agreed to terms on a two-year contract extension on Wednesday five days before the Islanders and Pulock were scheduled to go in front of an arbitrator. The new deal carries an AAV of $5 million, according to Elliotte Friedman.
The new contract is a pay raise for Pulock, who is coming off a two-year, $4 million deal he signed in 2018.
“I’m really happy we could get the deal done,” Pulock said during a Zoom Call on Wednesday afternoon. “Obviously I’m really excited to be back for two more years. This team has come a long way and the future is bright. It’s exciting.”
The signing leaves the Islanders with a mere $3.9 million in cap space currently and leaves Mathew Barzal as the lone restricted free agent that still has yet to sign a new contract. A second buyout period begins on Friday that would allow the Islanders to shed some of the more bloated contracts of players that have AAVs of $4 million or more.
Last month, Devon Toews was traded to Colorado for a pair of draft picks in a move that was seen as a way to help free up some cap space. Toews had also filed for arbitration and the return for the young defenseman could serve as a sweetener for a trade that would involve a player like Johnny Boychuk or Andrew Ladd.
The flat salary cap has thrown a wrench into many offseason plans, none more so than for the Islanders. The current financial circumstances of the league and team were something that Ryan Pulock kept in mind, the defenseman said.
“Obviously we knew that’s an issue. That’s an issue for everyone on both sides, Pulock said. “From our standpoint, we just wanted to make something work that would work well for both us and the team. We’re really excited we were able to do that.”
Pulock has become a crucial part of the Islanders blue line over the past two years. The 26-year old defenseman logged an average of 22:24 of ice time per game this past season, which was the second consecutive year that Pulock has averaged more than 20 minutes a game.
Ryan Pulock had 35 points (10 goals, 25 assists) in 68 regular-season games last season and added another 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in the playoffs.
The righ handed defenseman logged 22:42 of ice time during the postseason and found himself often timess facing off against the opposing team’s best players. The Islanders trip to the Eastern Conference Finals — their first since 1993 — gave Pulock a sense of confidence and pride in their defensive unit and overall team going forward.
“Us as a team starting last year expectations continue to grow,: Pulock said. We expect to be deep in the playoffs every season and the main goal is the Stanley Cup. We’re going to continue to push to get closer to that until we can achieve that. I think us a D-core it’s always been a collective job back there. Everyone steps up, everyone does their job, so I think the future is bright back there.
“I really look forward to being a big part of that.”
Will Lamoriello Get Creative to Create Cap Space for Barzal?
There’s an old adage that New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello likes to use: “If there’s time, use it.”
With the potential start of the 2020-21 NHL season beginning to loom, that time that the Islanders had to figure out their cap situation is starting to run out. New York has $3.9 million in cap space left to sign Mathew Barzal to a new deal, as well as potentially bring back Andy Green and Matt Martin and sign Corey Schneider to a deal.
So Lamoriello has a few things to take care of while there is still time on the clock to get them done. The Islanders are allowed to exceed the cap by 10 percent during the offseason, but the offseason could be over in a matter of weeks if the NHL is able to begin the new season on their targeted Jan. 1 start date.
Thus, the New York Islanders will be forced to make some tough decisions over the coming weeks as a hard start date for training camps and the season become clearer.
Lamoriello and the Islanders have known that their cap situation was going to be precarious since they stepped off the plan in Farmingdale in September following their Eastern Conference Finals defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. To his credit, Lamoriello has worked since the offseason started to clear up cap space so that they could bring back as many players as possible for next year.
But it’s been tough trying to move some of the team’s most expensive contracts — Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ladd. Lamoriello even dealt one of the team’s top four defensemen in Devon Toews in October to acquire pieces that might help facilitate a trade to free up money.
Since then, as they say, all has been quiet on the western front.
Perhaps the looming season might push some teams to be more inclined to make a deal with the Islanders, but if no one has bit yet it would be hard to imagine much changing now.
LTIR may be the best bet for the Islanders to clear up some space and Ladd and Boychuk would be at the top of the list for the Islanders to try and use it on. That being said, using LTIR doesn’t come without some challenges.
Perhaps Lamoriello looks at some of the other contracts that the Islanders have a decides to move them in an effort to clear cap space. Would he look to deal a Josh Bailey, Jordan Eberle or even Casey Cizikas?
It’s highly unlikely, but the Islanders general manager will need to get creative to make financial room for Barzal.
The wheels are in motion for the NHL to be up and running in January and it would be safe to assume that training camps could open sometime in the middle of December. Lamoriello has found himself in cap crunches before, but this one is the most challenging consider all the extenuating circumstances.
Lamoriello’s creed of using time when you have it made plenty of sense and it’s paid off during his time with the Islanders so far. He’s had some time since the season ended in September, now we’ll see if was put to good use.
Would Mathew Barzal Take a ‘Team Friendly’ Deal?
The wait continues…
No, not for the Presidential Election results, but for any sort of resolution between the New York Islanders and Mathew Barzal. The Islanders star player is the only restricted free agent left that general manager Lou Lamoriello needs to re-sign.
On Wednesday, Ryan Pulock spoke with reporters after he signed his new two-year contract extension and was asked if he had communicated at all with Barzal during the RFA process. The Islanders defenseman indicated that they had and suggested that both players wanted to work out deals that made sense for all parties.
“We both obviously want to make it work so that we can keep everyone together and I think that’s the main goal,” Pulock said. “We want to win together, we want to keep this team together. I think we’ve talked a little bit, but his business side of it is his doing.”
Those words have sent some reassurance to Islanders fans that Barzal indeed wants to remain a member of the organization. Considering the success that the team has had over the last two seasons under Barry Trotz, that shouldn’t be too surprising, but Islanders fans are still shaking off years of misery so they still remain a bit cagy.
Pulock’s comments also have suggested to some that Barzal would be willing to take a discounted deal in order to keep everyone together. The deal that Pulock signed was a shorter-term deal at $10 million over two years, but came in financially around what Pulock likely would have gotten from an arbitrator.
And Pulock will become an unrestricted free agent at a point when the league’s and Islanders’ financial situation is in a better spot and the flat salary cap of $81.5 million has risen.
While Barzal won’t necessarily be taking a “team-friendly deal” the talented forward and his agent are more than aware of the financial circumstances of the NHL at the moment. Barzal will likely see somewhere in the neighborhood of $7 million, but could they be willing to come down a little with the prospect of a larger payday down the line in two or three years?
That would make sense for both sides, especially if Barzal wants to help the Islanders keep the core of the team together, and could be what plays out when all is said and done.
The NHL is targeting Jan. 1 as a start date for the season, but the situation remains fluid and Lamoriello still has time. Eventually, though, something will have to get done.
Mathew Barzal Contract Looms Even Larger Over Islanders with Pulock Signed
All eyes in New York Islanders country are on Mathew Barzal.
The team’s star forward is now the Islanders lone unsigned restricted free agent after Ryan Pulock inked a two-year contract extension on Wednesday. The new deal for Pulock, who was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing on Friday, limits the Islanders to just $3.9 million in cap space at the current moment.
Nothing has changed with where Barzal’s new contract might come in at numbers-wise. The 23-year-old can expect a new deal worth somewhere around $7 million per year for a two, or three-year period, which would allow him to become an unrestricted free agent when things have stabilized financially across the NHL.
Under his new contract, Pulock finds himself in a similar spot. Though the talented defenseman said that didn’t come into mind when working out his new contract.
“I don’t know if that was the thought,” Pulock said during a Zoom call on Wednesday. “I think the big thing for us was just trying to make something work that was good for both (sides) in terms of the flat cap. … Then down the road here in the future, we can hopefully work on something else.”
The Islanders have to hope Mathew Barzal has had a similar thought process as Pulock.
The road to clearing cap space for Barzal remains arduous for Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello. The well has appeared to dry up in terms of potential trade partners that would take some of the Islanders more expensive contracts.
After Devon Toews was traded to Colorado last month, it was reported that a deal that would send Johnny Boychuk and his $6 million cap hit elsewhere. A deal never materialized and things have remained quiet around Isles country.
Leo Komarov, Andrew Ladd and even Semyon Varlamov were also rumored to be potentially delt to free up some cap space.
The Islanders have other avenues to make more room under the salary cap. LTIR remains an option, albeit a complicated one.
And when it comes to any news leaking from either camp, fuhgeddaboudit. Even fellow RFA Ryan Pulock couldn’t provide any insight into what Mathew Barzal is thinking at the moment.
The two did talk during the RFA process.
“Obviously we’re good friends and we talk,” Pulock said. “We both obviously want to make it work so that we can keep everyone together and I think that’s the main goal. We want to win together, we want to keep this team together. I think we’ve talked a little bit, but his business side of it is his doing.”
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