Are New Jersey Devils Poised To Make A Free Agent Splash?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Should the New Jersey Devils Make a Splash in Free Agency?

With the NHL finally returning after a four-month hiatus, the New Jersey Devils are in the unfortunate position of watching the games from home. The Devils were supposed to take the next step in their rebuild, but things went south right from the start and the team missed the postseason for the seventh time in the last eight years.

While the team certainly disappointed this season, there is no doubt that the foundational pieces of a tremendous core are in place. Exactly how far the Devils are from contention can be argued back and forth, but thanks to some recent draft luck, the young pieces are in place for a bright future. At some point over the next three to four months, the Devils will have the opportunity to supplement that young core by spending big on some of the top free agents on the market. Between Taylor Hall and Alex Pietrangelo, there are some top-flight players scheduled to become free agents this offseason.

With all that said, team management has some tough questions they must ask themselves. The Devils need to determine just how far from contention they believe they truly are. The Devils are a young team. They have some veterans like Kyle Palmieri, P.K. Subban, and Travis Zajac, but for the most part, the core they will be looking to the future with are all 25 and younger.

The next time this team is truly in contention for a Stanley Cup, players like Taylor Hall and Alex Pietrangelo may be on the back ends of their careers. Zajac may be entering his final year as a Devil and players like Palmieri and Nikita Gusev are entering the final seasons on their contracts. The Devils may very well re-sign one or both players, but either way, the team will be relying on their young players such as Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Ty Smith, and Mackenzie Blackwood to develop and to carry the organization into the future. The Devils need to use free agency to sign players who fit the timeline of the young core that is in place.

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The other thing to for the organization to consider is cap space. The Devils currently have plenty of cap space with a little over $26 million. However, as we have seen with many other teams, cap space can disappear quite quickly. While the team is currently flush with cap space, they do have some pieces that will soon need new contracts.

The Devils may choose to re-sign Kyle Palmieri and Nikita Gusev. Young players such as Jack Hughes and Mackenzie Blackwood will eventually need new contracts and depending on how they develop, those contracts may become quite large. So while the Devils currently sit with plenty of cap space, they need to ensure that signing free agents now does not come at the expense of being able to afford your own players later on.

This is not to say that the Devils should stay out of the free agent market entirely. If the Devils truly feel that signing Hall or Pietrangelo would take them to the next level and would help players like Hughes develop, then they should go out and sign them. They just need to be smart and make sure that they are not just making moves because of pressure that is being put on them. The best path may be to sign secondary free agents who can supplement the core, not lead them and let players like Hischier and Hughes really learn how to lead.