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Neal Pionk Re-Ups in Winnipeg for Four Years and $23.5 Million

Photos by James Carey Lauder

Neal Pionk Re-Ups in Winnipeg for Four Years and $23.5 Million

The Winnipeg Jets and defenceman Neal Pionk have successfully avoided arbitration in coming to terms on a four-year, $23.5 million contract beginning with the 2021-22 season and running through 2024-25.

“We looked at a lot of different options, whether it was a longer termed deal, a one or two-year deal,” Pionk said on Thursday. “But obviously we kind of met in the middle and we negotiated; that’s part of the business of hockey. A four-year deal just worked for both sides.”

Having just announced his engagement to long-time girlfriend Kiera, Pionk has capped off a successful 2020-21 season with a brand new contract that helps both he and his family, as well as the Jets’ salary cap predicament.

“I think each side probably had to give up a little bit,” Pionk added. “And that’s where we kind of met in the middle, so to speak. Maybe some people will say I left money on the table, my good friends say I’m overpaid. Depends who you ask. I’m just really excited it worked for both sides and that I’m able to be part of the team for the next four years.”

Set to earn $5.875 million annually for the next four years, the 26-year-old blueliner now joins a defensive crew including Josh Morrissey (seven years), Nate Schmidt (four years), Brenden Dillon (three years), Dylan DeMelo (three years) and Logan Stanley (two years) that are set in stone for the foreseeable future.

“I think they’ve been great, really excited about it,” Pionk said of the Jets’ defensive acquisitions this offseason. “Obviously playing against both those guys a lot, I know Schmitty a little bit. Making those two additions is going to be huge for us.”

Acquired from New York in the now infamous Jets-Rangers deal that saw Jacob Trouba sent to the Rangers in exchange for Pionk and a first round draft pick that turned into Ville Heinola, Pionk has been the biggest beneficiary of the deal.

In 125 regular season games since the deal, Pionk has combined for nine goals, 77 points, 35 power play points, 52 penalty minutes and a +16 rating since being acquired by Winnipeg. Trouba, on the other hand, has accrued nine goals, 39 points, nine power play points, 83 penalty minutes and a -9 rating over 108 contests with New York. Heinola continues to develop with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL.

With Pionk now having avoided arbitration with his Wednesday morning deal, Jets’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff then turned his attention to fellow RFA forward Andrew Copp. The 27-year-old who was coming off a $2.28 million contract in 2020-21, avoided arbitration by signing a one-year, $3.64 million deal on Thursday afternoon, finalizing the Jets’ RFA issues going forward.

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at carterbrooks1994@gmail.com.

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