The Panthers announced on Thursday that they signed restricted free-agent Mark Pysyk to a 3-year contract extension.
Despite the Panthers struggling as a team, the 25-year old defenseman posted career numbers during the 2016-17 season, including 4 goals, 13 assists, and 17 points despite averaging the second-lowest ice time per game among the team’s regular defensemen.
Acquired in a deal at the 2016 Draft for Dmitry Kulikov, Pysyk played in a full 82-game campaign for the first time in his career and logged the most shorthanded ice time on the team, leading the Panthers to the second-best penalty kill percentage in the league.
“Game in and game out, [Pysyk] was the most consistent defenseman,” said General Manager Dale Tallon following the expansion draft. “He played very well for us in every situation. Tremendous character, he’s a really good guy, the players really like him and he’s just a solid defenseman. I think he’s gonna get better and he really fits in nicely.”
Because of his reliable play and the trust placed in him by the coaching staff, Pysyk managed to accumulate at least 160 minutes with 4 different defensemen by the end of the season while maintaining the second-best Corsi For percentage among the Panthers’ blue-liners.
He was also paired with rookies Ian McCoshen and Mackenzie Weegar when they made their NHL debuts at the end of the season.
With a plus-minus rating of 0, he was the only Panthers defenseman to not finish in the negative.
Pysyk’s heat maps show that the Panthers were significantly better at suppressing shot attempts towards their own net when he was on the ice versus when he wasn’t, especially in front of the net where the Panthers had issues most of the season.
The contract extension will kick in this season and it’s backloaded, meaning Pysyk will make $1.95 million to begin, $2.75 million in the second year, and $3.5 million in the final year.
The deal also buys one unrestricted free-agent year, so overall it’s pretty good value for what Pysyk is now and what he still has room to become.
With a new coaching staff, including Bob Boughner who coached Pysyk briefly with Team Canada, Pysyk could see an expanded role.
The Panthers now have their entire defensive core from last season locked up for at least the upcoming season. Alex Petrovic, who signed a 1-year extension a week ago, and Michael Matheson will become restricted free-agents at the end of the year.