Home Sports Reasoning behind Islanders’ Ross Johnston extension decision

Reasoning behind Islanders’ Ross Johnston extension decision



Like most dealings involving Lou Lamoriello, the news of Ross Johnston’s contract extension on Tuesday seemed to appear from the sky.

Johnston, who signed for four years with a $1.1 million average annual value, is the Islanders’ 13th forward. Signing him to a four-year deal at the age of 27 prompts questions.

But the Islanders see his scrappy, hard-nosed game as a good fit, and a way to extend the longevity of the fourth line, whose members are all over 30.

“There’s not a lot of guys that can do what Ross does and fill that role,” coach Barry Trotz said. “And so yeah, we can hopefully extend it. And the toll on the fourth line in terms of the physicality and all that, they get marked up. He’ll be a fresh guy to go in there all the time.”

Johnston saw his only playing time of the season thus far when Matt Martin missed the opener, jumping in on Casey Cizikas’ left wing against Carolina.

“I feel pretty comfortable [on the fourth line] when those opportunities present themselves,” Johnston said. “So for me, it’s staying ready and taking advantage of those opportunities when they come.”

Ross Johnston
Ross Johnston

A former undrafted free agent who worked his way through the organization after the Islanders signed him in 2015, Johnston wanted to be on the Island long term.

“I think you see the commitment from the guys that have been here a while, guys have signed deals to stick here long term,” he said. “That shows how close our group is and what we believe we can do in here. So the commitment from the core group and just kinda all around the area of Long Island, it’s been a home for me and I’m very gracious to have the opportunity to stay here for a few more years.”

When in Vegas, Trotz caught up with Pete DeBoer as part of their capacity as assistant coaches for Team Canada at the Olympics. DeBoer’s Golden Knights went through a similarly slow start to the Islanders — as did the Lightning.

All three teams have been in the NHL’s final four the last two seasons, when the league played a condensed schedule due to COVID-19.

“I thought we had a tremendous training camp and we were really good out of the gates, first exhibition game,” Trotz said. “And the longer we played through the exhibition schedule, the worse we seemed to get. … He said he had the same experience with their team.”

With seven more road games on the docket over the next three weeks, Trotz gave the Islanders three days off upon their return home from Vegas — a rare chance to reset.

“Well deserved on a back-to-back, flying across the country, being away for 11-12 days,” Trotz said. “I thought they earned it.”


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