With the Islanders’ non-playoff season in its final week comes the specter of off-season plans.
Sure, there’s that small matter of one captain and franchise player’s next contract, a situation that evidently affects whether he’ll join the teammates mentioned below.
But in terms of the IIHF World Championship tournament, a bit of a surprising but gratifying name joins the discussion: Ryan Pulock will represent Team Canada, joining Mathew Barzal (who always seemed a lock) and Jordan Eberle, all reported by Arthur Staple of The Athletic this week.
Pulock has really developed well and grown into a significant role for the Islanders in 66 games (and counting) this season. Following two seasons spent mostly at Bridgeport, he still wasn’t a regular in the Islanders lineup last fall, as his first full season waiver-locked to an NHL roster began.
But injuries created opportunity and comfort, and he’s added more regular offense to the maturing defensive side of his game. His absolute cannon was always his best attribute; now it appears the team and player are fully on board with how he’s approaching his own zone — and rushing the puck too.
That makes his next contract an interesting question: He’s a restricted free agent, whose potential and upward trajectory is much greater than his three-year NHL track record so far would indicate (82 games played thus far, all but 16 of them coming this season).
He and the Islanders could try to go with a long-term deal to bet on stability for both. Or he could insist on a short-term deal to bank on increased leverage the next time around.
No doubt a strong performance at the Worlds, with teammates he knows plus some Connor McDavid guy, could bolster his case in contract negotiations.
As for other Canadians, last week Andrew Gross of Newsday reported that for John Tavares, it’s a tricky question thanks to his unrestricted free agent status. (What?! I know, I know, the news may have escaped you but Tavares is without a contract for next year.) An injury at the international tournament would complicate contract matters — though it would have to be one significant injury to truly alter what teams would offer this summer’s top free agent who is sure to command a maximum seven years (or eight if he stays put).
And as for other nation-states at the Worlds, Staple added that Brock Nelson has a baby on the way, Anders Lee has a wedding to celebrate, but Nick Leddy has a U.S. invitation awaiting him, should he choose to go that route to rinse the taste of this season away.
None of the Americans want to chase McDavid/Barzal around for 60 minutes. I don't blame them.— ND Red Eagle (@NDRedEagle) April 4, 2018
Staple also tweeted that Dennis Seidenberg and Thomas Greiss are likely attendees for Germany, which is coming off a milestone silver medal in this year’s Olympics, which was won by Athletes From Putin’s Team.