New Jersey Devils: Fair Price for Jesper Bratt’s Next Contract

Jesper Bratt - New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Jesper Bratt - New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

What is a fair contract for Jesper Bratt now that his RFA deal is over?

Now that we know the New Jersey Devils‘ 2019-20 season is officially over, it is time for Tom Fitzgerald and upper-level management to begin to work toward contract extensions for restricted free agents. Of those extensions, Jesper Bratt‘s is the most important among skaters.

Looking at Bratt’s performance this season, his 3rd in the NHL, it was good – not great. He posted 16 goals and 16 assists for a total of 32 points. This was one point less than last season in 9 more games played. Although Bratt is still very young, this level of production does not reflect well on his development.

However, his average time on ice went down one minute and eleven seconds per game this season. Early on, he played all over the lineup, which may have affected his ice time.

Bratt went through a bit of a rough patch this season. His point production was set to be on par with his previous season, but Coach Alain Nasreddine refused to accept that. Nas scratched Bratt in mid-February citing “inconsistency” in Bratt’s game. Over the ensuing 3 weeks, Bratt posted 8 points in 10 games on a line with Pavel Zacha and Nikita Gusev. He was much more effective than in his first 50 games of the season, during which he put up just 24 points.

This spike in Bratt’s performance combined with his youth makes him a very valuable young player. At 21 years old, he still has some significant development to go. As fans, we’ve seen he can make offense happen and we’ve seen he can score dazzlingly, but how can the Devils organization quantify his high development ceiling while still considering his consistency issues?

First, it’s important to say the most sensible length of contract for both the Devils and Bratt is probably 3 years. To sign him for longer than that would be a bit of a risk for the Devils, and also could impose an inaccurate long-term earning ceiling on Bratt, which he likely wouldn’t agree to. Bratt has not shown enough production consistency at this point in his career for an NHL GM to be comfortable signing him for longer than 3 years.

In negotiations, Bratt’s highlights will be talked about, as will his slumps. an arbitrary number to explore here could be 3 million dollars AAV. If Bratt is paid 3 million dollars and puts up 41 points next year, his cost per point next (CPP) season will be about $73,000. To give you an idea of where that stands in comparison to the rest of the NHL, his CPP would rank about 180th in the league. This means his contract would be very efficient in that situation, while still not significantly undervaluing Bratt’s contributions.

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If the Devils and Bratt want to take a more ambitious look at Bratt’s future, the AAV could be significantly higher. But, with the Devils still rebuilding, the organization’s GM will want to hold open as much cap space as possible for future blockbuster trades or star-signings.

So take $3 million AAV, add $500k AAV to account for Bratt playing up in the lineup and further developing in the defensive end, that makes this contract 3 years, $10.5 million, for $3.5 million per year.

Here is the contract observed with CPP. If Bratt scores 32 points again, the CPP is $109,375 and would rank this contract 297th in this category. If Bratt scores 45 points, the CPP is $77,777 and would rank this contract 199th in that category. These are just arbitrary figures to give you an idea of where Bratt’s possible production will affect his contract’s efficiency versus the salary cap relative to the rest of the NHL.

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If Bratt regresses, this contract will be a bad one for the Devils, but $3.5M AAV is not a huge chunk of the cap, and for three years the Devils would be able to make do. With the salary cap where it is now and Bratt’s exceeding expectations early in his career, the Devils organization may have a tough time signing Bratt for less than that amount.