Ryan Poehling’s time at the NCAA level has come to an end as the Habs announced that he has signed a three-year, entry-level contract. The first year of the deal will be burned this season regardless of whether or not he plays a game. The deal pays the maximum base salary of $925,000 (including signing bonuses) in each season while 2019-20 and 2020-21 also carry potential Class A performance bonuses of $850,000.
Poehling was Montreal’s first-round pick (25th overall) back in 2017 after his freshman season at St. Cloud State where he was the youngest player in college hockey at the time. He has improved his offensive game since then, picking up 31 points in 36 games in each of the last two years after putting up just 13 in his first campaign.
The 20-year-old also suited up at the World Juniors for Team USA in each of the last two tournaments. He made quite the positive impression in the 2019 tourney as he wound up taking home MVP honours after putting up five goals and three assists in seven games.
Poehling was ranked third in our annual prospect rankings for the second straight season. There are some questions as to how much offensive upside he ultimately has but he’s almost assuredly going to have a good career as a two-way pivot.
When that NHL career will begin remains to be seen. By burning the first year of his contract now, he’s eligible to suit up in this week’s games as well as the playoffs if the Habs make it in. However, given that they’re fighting for their postseason lives, is that the ideal time to have a prospect make his NHL debut, even if it’s a two-way player like Poehling?
While he won’t be eligible for a contract slide, there is an important threshold to watch for. If he plays in 11 or more games this season (which means the Habs would have to make it to the second round of the postseason), he would accrue a season towards unrestricted free agency and become eligible for the Seattle expansion draft. However, if he fails to do so, he’ll be exempt and the Habs will still have the standard seven years of team control; he’ll just be eligible for restricted free agency one year earlier than normal.