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Jets sign Neal Pionk to 4-year, $23.5 million contract, avoiding arbitration

Jets Pionk

WINNIPEG, MB - MAY 23: Neal Pionk #4 of the Winnipeg Jets takes part in the pre-game warm up prior to NHL action against the Edmonton Oilers in Game Three of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell MTS Place on May 23, 2021 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

The Winnipeg Jets and defenseman Neal Pionk have avoided arbitration and agreed to a new four-year contract worth $23.5 million.

That comes out to a salary cap number of just under $6 million per season.

It is a very good deal for Pionk who has emerged as one of the Jets’ top defenders over the past two seasons, something that has been a pleasant development for the team.

It was two years ago that the Jets found themselves in a position where they had to trade Jacob Trouba who was ready for a big contract extension and looking to be dealt to a US-based team. The Jets sent him to the New York Rangers for Poink and a first-round pick which the team used to select top defense prospect Ville Heinola.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

Pionk has not only turned into a really good player, there is also a very strong argument to be made that he has outperformed Trouba since the trade while making significantly less money against the cap even after his new contract (Trouba makes $8 million per season). Add in the presence of Heinola and it has been an outstanding trade for Winnipeg that could reshape its defense for years.

In his two years with the Jets Pionk has posted outstanding possession numbers (he is one of their best possession drivers) and scored at a 50-point pace per 82 games. That is a legitimate top-pairing performance.

Trouba’s game has gone in the exact opposite direction, being one of the Rangers’ worst possession players and averaging 29 points per 82 games.