In two days the New York Islanders have locked up two key parts of their defensive core – Devon Toews and Ryan Pulock – over the next two-years at rock bottom prices.
On Monday the New York Islanders signed restricted free agent (RFA) Devon Toews to a two-year one-way deal worth $700,000 per year. They followed that up on Tuesday by signing fellow RFA Ryan Pulock to a two year $4 million deal ($2 million AAV).
That’s two big-name RFAs signed for the next two years taken care of. The only RFA left to sign for the Islanders is Brock Nelson.
With a combined $2.7 million cap hit for Devon Toews and Ryan Pulock, the Islanders revolutionanize their defense on the cheap.
Put that $2.7 million combined cap hit into perspective for a second. Remember that former New York Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan fetched $4.55 million per year for four years from the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Islanders got two potential top-four defenders for just over the price of one. That’s some incredible value. The difference is that de Haan is a known commodity in the NHL, where these two former RFAs aren’t.
Pulock played his first full NHL season in 2017-18, putting up 32 points in 68 games. It was a great season for him. But it was his first. There’s no guarantee that happens again. We all saw what happened to Ryan Strome after his impressive first season in the NHL.
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Toews, on the other hand, hasn’t yet played at the NHL level. What we do know is that he’s absolutely outgrown the AHL. He’s ready for the NHL.
Based on what we’ve seen from the two, it’s fair to project them as top-four defenders at the NHL level. Again, Calvin de Haan was the premier top-four defender available on the free agent market on July 1 and he went for just over four-and-a-half million a year.
The Islanders got both Toews and Pulock on absolute bargain deals. It’s likely going to cost them later, but until they know for sure these two will be top-four defenders they won’t have to pay them like ones.
Why Not Long-Term?
After a number of long-term deals for bottom tier players, like Ross Johnston or Scott Mayfield, it was odd to see that the New York Islanders sign two young promising defenders to short-term deals.
But when you think about it, it makes sense.
Toews and Pulock are betting on themselves, they’ll take bridge deals now knowing they’ll play well enough to earn big money deals later. They also chew up a few more RFA years in the process.
Meaning that when it comes time to get that long-term deal the Islanders will have to buy out some of their more expensive UFA years in the process.
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After a shaky start to the offseason by acquiring depth forwards like Leo Komarov and Tomas Kuhnhackl to head-scratching deals, Lou Lamoriello is starting showing why he’s one of the best in the business.