With the New Jersey Devils having tons of cap space and reports that the salary cap increase is much less than some expected, there are many teams that the Devils can take advantage of this summer.
The San Jose Sharks are one of them, especially after giving Erik Karlsson a massive extension. Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi, Joe Thornton, and Gustav Nyqvist are still due to be unrestricted free agents on July 1st. The Sharks also have two extremely talented young forwards that are RFAs in Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc. We have discussed the possibility of New Jersey acquiring Meier before, but Labanc is another extremely intriguing player.
San Jose currently has around $15 million in cap space, according to Cap Friendly. Pavelski and Meier with both likely command greater than $6 million per year. Labanc won’t fit in the cap if those two are brought back.
A local kid, Labanc is coming off of a 17 goal, 56 point season, along with 9 points in 20 playoff games. He is elite on the power play, scoring twice and adding 18 assists on the power play in 2018-19. His patience and passing ability was on full display in Game 7 against Vegas, when he had four points on the infamous five-minute power play.
His numbers are very similar to those of Alex Tuch, who was signed to a seven-year, $33.25 million contract last year. That $4.75 million AAV is very fair for a player of Labanc’s skill, and that is around the number he will likely see on his next contract. Even with New Jersey re-signing their young players and potentially Taylor Hall, he can fit well within the cap.
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He was born in Staten Island, and played his youth hockey in New Jersey. He even played one Pee-Wee season with the New Jersey Devils team. His skill set and stats are also very similar to another Jersey kid in Kyle Palmieri. Both are quick, skilled players who are lethal on the power play who had to be traded due to cap issues. He will fit perfectly under John Hynes and possibly on the first power play unit. A power play with Severson on defense, along with Hall, Palmieri, Labanc, and Nico Hischier has the potential to be one of the league’s best.
As for lines, he will certainly be a boost to New Jersey’s middle six. Putting him on a line with a playmaker in Jack Hughes at center and another highly talented player on wing such as Jesper Bratt would make for an excellent second line.
Ray Shero is familiar with Doug Wilson, as they worked together previously in the Mirco Mueller trade. With the draft on Friday and the Devils having seven picks in the first three rounds, if a trade is to happen, it might have to happen soon. The return for the 23-year-old Labanc may be similar to that of Palmieri or Johansson, which were second and third round picks.
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It will certainly be a busy weekend for Ray Shero & company.