The New York Islanders shocked us all — except is anything from Lou Lamoriello truly shocking? — with the announcement today of a four-year contract extension for seldom-used but long roster-protected forward Ross Johnston.
From the team announcement:
Johnston has scored 15 points (seven goals and eight assists) in 87 career games with the Islanders.
That might actually be point production than you associate with the big forward, who diligently works on his game while mostly being left out of the lineup, and rarely exceeds 10 minutes in a game.
Johnston, 27, has appeared in one game this season (5:50) before being replaced by Leo Komarov (since waived and assigned to Bridgeport) and then by Matt Martin, whose injury was the reason those two appeared at all. Johnston is seen as depth, but known depth, and a guy who can step in when things need to get medieval or “old time hockey”-y. He’s also clearly a liked guy who’s done what’s assigned without raising a fuss.
He is currently on the final year of a four-year, $4 million contract, so it will be interesting to see what the terms are for his new deal. (Multiple reports say it’s a $1.1 million cap hit.) Whatever the terms, it’s “buriable” in the minors in full, in salary cap terms, a luxury the Isles can afford under ownership that says “spend what you need.”
Teams do not receive full cap relief when a player on a one-way NHL contract is reassigned to the American Hockey League, or is loaned to a team in another professional league. The players salary cap hit, minus the sum of the minimum NHL salary for the respective season and $375,000, still counts towards the team’s salary cap total.The cap hit relief is therefore equal to the minimum salary of the respective season + $375,000. The cap hit relief is therefore equal to the minimum salary of the respective season [$750,000 in 2021-22] + $375,000.
So the Johnston term and salary may be designed to allow him to pass through waivers when the Isles need roster or cap relief and not actually counting against the cap. (It’s a good bet his current contract was also inked with that philosophy in mind.) And for the Isles, that’s probably some comfort that any time they need to call up or look for “a Ross Johnston type,” they can just turn to the actual Ross Johnston.
Still, it’s a fascinating contrast between commitment vs. useage, security vs. impact, the similarities for which I can’t recall...other than the previous Johnston contract. He’s signed for several hundred thousand dollars more than some decorated NHL veterans who are in the Isles lineup every day (but who’ve also made gobs and gobs of money at their previous NHL stops, to be sure).
Elliotte Friedman had reported late in the summer that other teams had their eye on Johnston should the Isles waive him; perhaps a lengthy extension acts as a deterrent, and Johnston remains an emergency piece as well as a potential future replacement if/when one of the fourth-line wingers breaks down.
It’s unconventional, a little odd, and very Lou. As you can imagine, reactions vary.
The Ross Johnston extension is another brilliant move by Lou Lamoriello. Teams would definitely have claimed him if he was waived. Now they won’t if Lou wants to send him to Bridgeport. #isles— Noel Fogelman (@thefirstnoel19) October 26, 2021
The Islanders announced today that forward Ross Johnston has agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension.— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) October 26, 2021
Lou's contract announcements remain a constant surprise.
"It's like I always say, 'If you have time, use it. Unless you can lock up a guy who averages 14.5 games and 2.5 points a season. Then you do it right away. You just gotta.'" - Lou Lamoriello (probably).— Dan (@cultureoflosing) October 26, 2021
Johnston has played 62 games (and counting) through the first 3+ years of his current four-year deal, having played 25 games prior to that.
How many do you think he’ll play under the next one? The winning prediction will your prize in 2026.
How many NHL regular season games will Johnston play under his new contract (2022-23 to 2025-26)?
This poll is closed
Less than 60