If the Montreal Canadiens were looking to continue making the roster younger and build for both the present and the future, they could do much, much worse than New York Islanders defenceman Ryan Pulock.
Pulock is 23 years old, and had a breakout first full season at the NHL level. The former AHL All-Star had 10 goals and 22 assists in 68 games with the Islanders this year. He had 16 NHL games the previous two seasons combined. He capped off his year by representing Team Canada at the 2018 World Hockey Championship.
He also has a booming shot, skating ability, and was one of the bright spots on the Islanders defence this season. A first-round pick in 2013, he brings physicality with his 6’2”, 214-pound frame.
The lowest numbers are the raw shot and possession numbers, but when they are adjusted for his team, they shoot right back up.
He’s in the 43rd percentile for Corsi-for percentage and 54th percentile for Goals-for percentage, but when you adjust those numbers for his team, he goes into the 83rd percentile for Corsi and 87th for Goals for. He also has quite good production numbers.
The only thing that goes against him as a true target is the fact that he is a right-handed shot. The Canadiens’ major need is on the left side. However, with the injury to Shea Weber, suddenly the right side needs a little more assistance.
When it comes to the Islanders defenceman, the Canadiens have a couple of guys who have seen him closely. Sean Burke, a scout with the team, was part of Team Canada’s management team at the World Championship, and newly-hired assistant coach Luke Richardson was with Pulock last year with the Islanders.
Now, a player like this won’t be given away, even as a restricted free agent, and it will cost the Canadiens to get him if the Islanders even make him available.
The Islanders are in a bit of a scrambling mode after losing John Tavares. They have signed players in part to replace him, but if they intend on being a playoff team they likely need to fill his spot on the offensive end. If they don’t intend on being a playoff team, they’ll likely hold on to their 23-year-old former first-round pick.
There were rumours that they showed interest in Max Pacioretty at the NHL Draft until they saw which players would be available when they had their back-to-back draft picks at 10th and 11th overall.
If talks were to resume, Pulock would be a good starting point for a return, despite playing on the right side. It would not be a one-for-one trade, so it would depend on what else is coming back.
Of course, the Canadiens have a logjam at forward, so even if you wanted to make a smaller trade to dealing Max Pacioretty, there may be someone on the team who would interest Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders and make a need-for-need swap.
All indications are that the Canadiens aren’t going to run out and replace Shea Weber just for the sake of replacing him, but Pulock would fit in not just this year, but for the foreseeable future as well.
But there are also downsides that make it hard to justify his acquisition despite his strengths.
If you want Noah Juulsen at the NHL level, a right side of Weber (when healthy), Jeff Petry and Pulock leave Juulsen without a spot and the other two guys likely aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. You would have to feel confident you could slide someone over to the left side.
He would definitely help the team. The questions then become are the Islanders willing to trade him, and would you be comfortable with the cost.
Correction: A previous version of this story stated Pulock had a cap hit of $1.6 million. He is currently a restricted free agent.