New Jersey Devils: Jesper Bratt’s Contract Is Becoming A Concern

New Jersey Devils left wing Jesper Bratt (63): (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils left wing Jesper Bratt (63): (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports) /

The New Jersey Devils may be without Jesper Bratt for the start of training camp.

The New Jersey Devils just figured out a new contract for goalie Mackenzie Blackwood this week, signing him to a three-year, $8.4 million deal. It was a great deal for the Devils and gets Blackwood a guaranteed payday while he grows for the next three seasons. It was one of two major restricted free agents the Devils needed to settle with. The other seems like it’s going to get a little more complicated.

Jesper Bratt hasn’t been signed, and since training camp is less than a week away and he’s still in Sweden, it’s likely that he won’t make the beginning of training camp. Of all the players on the Devils, Bratt was one many were looking forward to watching the most. He should be able to take advantage of Lindy Ruff‘s new system. There’s at least one spot open in the top six, and there could be two depending on where the Devils slot Andreas Johnsson.

He’s coming off the hottest stretch since the first month of his career. He ended the season with 16 points in his last 20 games. He ended the season with 32 points after a benching and seeing the season end early due to the pandemic. Still, his season as a whole was a disappointment.

The Devils are likely trying to use that in negotiations for his next contract. What is he worth? Well, he’s a scoring threat who plays a good two-way game. He can play on the penalty kill, but the Devils don’t really have a need there. He can play on the power play, but he only has one power-play goal in each of the last two seasons. Listen, he’s a 22 year old with three years of NHL experience. He’s clearly getting better. There is upside here but not enough to give him a $4-5 million contract. Giving him $3.5 million for anything besides a long-term deal would be unnecessary.

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Right now, Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald says he doesn’t expect Bratt to make the beginning of camp. He said that on the Two-Man Advantage Podcast with Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun. Bratt is an overseas player, so there are quarantine and testing rules he must abide by. Even if he signs a deal tomorrow, it won’t get done in time to get him in camp.

This situation is similar to the Pavel Zacha contract negotiation. There were rumors Zacha was willing to play in the KHL. Then-GM Ray Shero basically called his bluff. A contract was signed days later. Things seem a little less contentious with Bratt and Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald says he wants to see Bratt in New Jersey and Bratt wants to be here. There’s no talk of playing in the SHL or anywhere else.

Still, it’s getting concerning how late into the game this is getting. The Devils had 10 months to negotiate this contract. Obviously, there was a lot to do in that time, but signing a young cornerstone piece had to be close to the top of the list of tasks for Fitzgerald when he took over. Now, Bratt will miss possibly the most crucial training camp since he came onto the scene on fire during his rookie year. The Devils need as much NHL experience at forward as they can get. Despite Bratt’s age, he brings that.

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Hopefully, the Devils can sign Bratt sooner rather than later. If he only misses a week or so of training camp, he can make up for that lost time. Ruff is a long-time coach that has seen it all in hockey. He can make up for a week of lost training camp, even in a pandemic year. However, if this goes on any longer and Bratt misses actual games, this could set this to be another lost year for Bratt.