Neal Pionk is the latest restricted free agent off the market as he agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. Pionk has spent the last two seasons as a part of the New York Rangers organization where he played a total of 101 games in which he registered 40 points.
The 23-year-old defender had his rights traded to Winnipeg in a deal that saw the Jets received the 20th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft along with Pionk in exchange for Jacob Trouba.
The deal was considered to be a steal by general manager Jeff Gorton and the New York Rangers as Trouba was on the block due to cap issues that were hindering the Jets. Trouba signed with the Rangers on a seven-year, $56 million contract which includes an AAV worth a total value of $8 million per season.
As a young defender, Pionk has the potential to grow with the Jets and improve his game overall. Throughout his two seasons of professional hockey, including this past season which was his first full season in the NHL, Pionk showed flashes of potential and the ability to handle large amounts of ice time.
Pionk averaged 21:09 minutes of ice time per game which was the second-highest average ice time on the Rangers only behind Brady Skjei. Skjei averaged just five seconds more ice time per game at 21:14. Pionk also averaged 1:30 of power play time per game in which he recorded 13 of his 26 points.
Although Pionk has shown flashes of potential, he still has multiple aspects of his game that he must improve upon.
When you look at the advanced statistics (per Puck Pedia), Pionk does not stick out as a high-end player. However, it is important to keep in mind that Pionk spent the 2018-2019 season playing for the New York Rangers who were near the bottom of the standings.
Pionk finished with the second-highest average ice-time short-handed averaging 2:53 per night which was only one second lower then Marc Staal who had the highest average time on ice while shorthanded. Pionk finished with the 18th highest average ice-time on the penalty kill in the entire league.
Pionk signed with the Jets for two-years with an overall value of $6 million. The AAV of the deal is $3 million and features no signing or performance bonuses.
As per Puck Pedia, Pionk will be a restricted free agent once again once his contract expires. His qualifying offer will be set at $3.15 million.
With the Pionk contract being dealt with, the Jets still have two major restricted feee agents to handle in Patrick Laine and Kyle Connor and have $17,592,503 to spend as of now after signing Pionk.
Pionk will have the chance to prove himself in Winnipeg this season as he will be given the chance to make a lasting impression, especially with Trouba gone.