We’ve officially hit the “dead” part of the offseason, the time in which little-to-nothing eventful happens around the NHL. Yes, Jaromir Jagr doesn’t have a contract yet and salary arbitration hearings are still going on, but exciting breaking news is hard to find at this time of year. But the Isles made a move on Monday, even though most will hardly think twice about it. On July 24th, Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech signed a 4-year contract with an average annual value of $1.6M.
Drafted in the 3rd round (65th overall) in 2012, the defenseman has 12 points in 53 games played and is a -6, obviously not very impressive thus far. His ceiling could be high though. Take Karl Alzner, for example. I’ve used him before as a model stay-at-home defenseman, one who seldom gets involved on the offensive side of the game but is responsible in his own zone. Over his first 51 NHL games, he scored only 10 points and was a -3. He improved enough over time to earn a 5-year contract from the Montreal Canadiens with an AAV of $4.625M. Pelech might turn out similarly.
As we dive deeper into Pelech’s career thus far, we can see that he is growing into a steady, reliable defenseman. He averages about sixteen and a half minutes per game, sometimes playing on the top pair with Nick Leddy. His even strength corsi has risen by 3% since he broke into the league and he currently sits at 46%, meaning that the Isles have controlled the puck 46% of the time when he was on the ice. That stat is sure to improve during a full NHL season, especially now that he has more big league experience.
Additionally, goalies keep the puck out of the net when he is on the ice. In 2016-2017, the Islanders goalies stopped a combined 91.1% of shots against when Pelech was on the ice, only .5% shy of Nick Leddy’s 91.6%.
The Isles coaches also trust him the defensive zone, starting him there on about 50% of faceoffs. Strangely enough, however, he started in the defensive zone about 8% less times than last year, meaning that the coaching staff is not afraid to use him in the offensive zone either. He was also a big part of the Isles’ penalty kill, playing 43 minutes over 53 games this year. That penalty kill finished 11th in the league, thwarting 81.9% of the chances against. It finished ahead of some teams with arguably better defensemen than the Isles, such as the Sharks, Predators, Blackhawks, and the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins.
Overall, this is a low risk, high reward move for New York. Should Pelech not pan out, he is only signed to a $1.6 AAV contract, one we can buy out or trade easily. If he does though, he’s signed for another 4 years and will be an RFA when the contact expires, meaning the Islanders will have full control over his rights when that happens. With Travis Hamonic set to play for Calgary next season, the Islanders will need a new stay at home defenseman to replace him and Pelech might be the answer.
Stats courtesy of hockeyreference.com and sportingcharts.com