The Winnipeg Jets have announced that they have re-signed restricted free agent defenceman Neal Pionk to a four-year contract extension worth $23.5 million. His contract carries a salary-cap hit of$5.875 million.
Hearing WIN & Neal Pionk avoid arbitration with four-year extension, just under $6M AAV.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) August 11, 2021
Neal Pionk Re-Signed By Winnipeg
Undrafted, Pionk was originally signed by the New York Rangers as a college free agent out of the University of Minnesota Duluth in 2017. He split time between the AHL and NHL that season, making his NHL debut on February 9, 2018. The Nebraska native went on to play the balance of that season, scoring his first goal on March 24th. He appeared in 73 games the following year before becoming an RFA. That offseason, Pionk was dealt to the Winnipeg Jets along with a first-round pick in exchange for Jacob Trouba. The two sides avoided arbitration as Pionk was awarded $6,000,000 over two years.
Pionk has had great personal success in both seasons with the Jets, leading all d-men in points with 45 and 32, respectively. But, he does far more than put up points. Pionk was only one of three defencemen last year to have at least 30 points, 100 shots and 100 hits. The two others were MacKenzie Weegar and Darnell Nurse. Contrary to his first season with Winnipeg, Josh Morrissey had more time on the top powerplay unit last season. Despite that, Pionk still led their d-core in powerplay points with 10.
In his 226 NHL games, Pionk has amassed 117 points, 489 hits, 293 blocks and 463 shots. At 25-years-old, it’s hard to imagine that we’ve seen the best from him yet.
What This Means for the Future
Pionk is an essential piece on the Jets back end. On a team that is lacking depth at the position, he has proven that he can handle any role. The right-shot defenceman joins Josh Morrissey, Dylan DeMelo, Ville Heinola and Sami Niku as the only other blueliners that are signed heading into next season. There is work to be done around him, but right now the Winnipeg Jets and their fans should be thrilled that Pionk is locked up. In addition to Pionk, the Jets defence vastly improved with the additions of Nate Schmidt and Brendan Dillon. Plus keeping Logan Stanley at a low value. Winnipeg will be a tough team to play against this season.
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