Ross Johnston and the New York Islanders eliminated any sort of free-agency uncertainty on Tuesday when the two sides agreed to a four-year contract extension that carries an average annual value of $1.1 million.
The deal cements the 27-year-old’s place within the franchise through the 2025-26 season, where he continues to work his way toward potentially breaking through as a future full-time player.
“I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it,” Johnston said on Wednesday. “Getting a deal done this early is a peace of mind for me… Guys are signing deals to stick here long-term. It shows how close our group is.
“The commitment from the core group.. it’s been a home for me and I’m very gracious for the opportunity to stay here.”
Johnston has appeared in just 87 games across six seasons with the Islanders but provides a seamless fill-in on the team’s fourth line and a logical replacement for veteran winger Matt Martin down the road.
Much of that derives from his physical play that ensures New York’s identity line that also features Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to maintaining its tenacity.
“I think jumping in with those guys, whenever it may be, it’s been happening for a few years. I feel comfortable whenever those opportunities present themselves,” Johnston said. “At the end of the day, this is a business… For me, it’s just coming to the rink every day and putting my head down. My role is clear. I’m a physical forward and I provide a presence… I just go in and play my game”
In those 87 games, Johnston has just 15 career NHL points, but his value is irreplaceable for head coach Barry Trotz.
“There’s not a lot of guys that can do what Ross does and fill that role,” Trotz said. “We can hopefully extend it and the toll on the fourth line in terms of the physicality, they get marked up. He’ll be a fresh guy to go in there all the time.”
There is also the hope, though, that Johnston can provide more of an offensive presence as he continues to fine-tune his game.
“Believe it or not, all the time, he’s working with our coaching staff, doing some of the skill stuff and skating stuff,” Trotz said. “There’s a lot of elements in his game that have come a long way in the last couple years. He’s a big man who fills a role and identity for us that we’ll continue with.”