It doesn't pay much* to be a not-proven NHL goalie with not-stellar stats these days. Which tells you a bit about why restricted free agent Kevin Poulin has accepted the New York Islanders' qualifying offer of a one-year, two-way deal.
*Much in the "relative to average NHL salaries," not the "gee, I could live off half a million dollars" sense
Poulin was coming off a three-year entry level contract that, per CapGeek, paid him a $612,500 base in the NHL (plus a $250,000 signing bonus) and a $65,000 salary in the AHL.
Even looking at unrestricted free agents who theoretically had their pick of destinations this summer, older goaltenders with more established (if still limited) records who signed included Alex Stalock ($625,000 in San Jose), Chad Johnson ($600,000 in Boston), Anton Khudobin ($800,000 in Carolina) and Thomas Greiss ($750,000 in Phoenix). Even "top-tier" UFA Ray Emery fetched just $1,650,000 from Philadelphia.
Poulin has 21 NHL games to his name, and his AHL save percentage continued a downward trend to .904 in 2012-13. Upon his recall this past season in the swap for Rick DiPietro, he only saw action in five games, conceding 13 goals on 122 shots. He also saw 52 minutes in the playoffs, but it was in such mop-up duty and small samples that it doesn't add anything meaningful to his record.
Essentially, Poulin didn't have a lot of leverage here to demand more. His charge right now is to prove he can be an NHL goalie rather than fight a losing battle over anything more than a standard qualifying offer. It's not currently looking this way, but it would be best for player, team and angst-ridden fans if he turned this into a wonderful story that gave him better bargaining power this time next year.
Will he get that chance? Last month Garth Snow told booster club members that he was open to the idea of Poulin competing with Anders Nilsson, or going outside the organization and letting those two share duties in Bridgeport. Snow also noted Poulin's
waiver exposure enters the equation. [UPDATE: After much confusion, it has been clarified that Poulin does not require waivers to be assigned to Bridgeport this fall.]
Whether something different happens depends on whether another goalie target shakes loose between now and camp and, barring that, whether Poulin shows enough to convince the Isles to lean on him as Nabokov's backup.
Next Up: Clutterbuck, Bailey, Hickey
Separately, the Islanders have significant restricted free agents in Cal Clutterbuck, Thomas Hickey and Josh Bailey. For a variety of very different reasons, those contracts aren't as open-and-shut. Arthur Staple of Newsday recently reported the Isles were working on a two-year extension with Hickey, which if reached would keep him a RFA the next time his contract comes due.