With every day that this seemingly endless NHL pause continues, it seems more and more certain that we’ve seen our last game played by the 2019-2020 New Jersey Devils. That said, we here at Pucks and Pitchforks are eager to move on to 2020-21 Devils hockey, as many Devil fans likely are.
Looking at next season, the least of the Devils’ concerns right now is cap space. Given past circumstances, Devils ex-GM Ray Shero managed the team’s payroll fairly well. The Devils currently have a cap hit next season of $55,254,999, but will have plenty of expiring contracts to manage this offseason. The projected salary cap for 2020-2021 is currently unknown due to the NHL pause
As of right now, the Devils have some really valuable contracts that will prove even more valuable as the team attempts to add or re-sign talent going forward. Here are what I believe are the best on the team right now.
#5 Pavel Zacha – $2.25M AAV through 2021-22
Pavel Zacha is one of the Devils’ younger contributors. His 32 points this season make him the 5th highest point contributor on the roster. Though consistently inconsistent, Zacha is still young and has significant development in front of him. I believe under the right coach and with the right linemates, Zacha can be a 50-point scorer.
Zacha was on pace for 38 points at the time of the pause. His 32 points scored so far came amidst an early-season drought, an unusually delayed coaching change, and a lack of consistency of his spot in the lineup. I predict he makes another jump toward 50 next season, which makes his $2.25 million cap hit a cheap one. That kind of ratio of cap hit to point production is rare in the NHL, outside of entry-level contracts.
The reason Zacha isn’t higher on the list is his lack of consistency on both sides of the puck. With each season that goes by, he seems less willing to use his body as an asset. He seems relatively soft in the defensive zone when he doesn’t have to be, and this leads to goals against.