New Jersey Devils: Predicting Janne Kuokkanen’s Next Contract

Janne Kuokkanen #59 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Janne Kuokkanen #59 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils‘ most important contracts this offseason are the restricted free agents. While none of the core pieces are seeing their contracts run out like Jack Hughes or Mackenzie Blackwood, the Devils do have very important supporting players expiring like Yegor Sharangovich, Michael McLeod, and Janne Kuokkanen.

Kuokkanen is an interesting deal that Tom Fitzgerald has to negotiate this offseason. He joined Sharangovich to play alongside Jack Hughes for a much better sophomore season. While Kuokkanen had the lowest point total of the three players (Hughes 31, Sharangovich 30, Kuokkanen 25), he was still an integral part of this line.

What should the New Jersey Devils pay Janne Kuokkanen?

The Devils will look to make smart moves on these deals, and looking at what Tom Fitzgerald did last season, he would rather do a bridge deal than take a chance on a long-term pact. He gave Blackwood a three-year deal and Jesper Bratt a two-year deal. Giving Bratt this deal means Fitzgerald has to deal with Hughes, Bratt, Miles Wood, and Pavel Zacha all at the same time. It’s going to be a very busy offseason next year.

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So, because of the current status of the Devils contracts, the team will want to make these deals last a little longer. Bridge deals only last so long (literally), and the Devils will want to get some of these players locked up long term. Kuokkanen seems like a prime candidate to get a slight overpay so he signs for longer.

The Devils will hope he signs for four years and $8 million total, but that’s likely not going to cut it. Sure, it’s double Kuokkanen’s salary, but he’s pretty clearly a long-term NHL player. The Devils knew that when they traded Sami Vatanen for him. He was close to NHL ready when he came to New Jersey, and after one offseason it was clear he was going to find a spot on this roster.

He was slightly inconsistent this season. There were times before he got paired with Sharangovich and Hughes that he was on a different line every night. He’d have a stretch where he scored three points in two games or four points in three games, but then he’d go six or seven games without any points. When he was on, he was nearly unstoppable. When he was off, he could disappear.

This is what happens with a 22-year-old player who is still finding his way in the NHL. He is playing off of confidence and talent. When the first part of that equation doesn’t exist, it leads to a lack of production. That will come with time, and it’s not that big of a problem long term.

Speaking of the long term, let’s get back to the deal at hand. The Devils should try to make this deal a four-year deal. Kuokkanen will ask for $4 million, but realistically he’s looking for $3 million. Four years, $12 million is definitely doable, but the Devils will be worried about what that means for the Sharangovich deal and maybe other deals in the future. They will shoot for $2.5 million, but they seem like they will find a happy medium at $2.75 million. This is basically what Miles Wood got after holding out for the best possible deal. The Devils should be able to get to this number a lot easier.

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Some might ask why Kuokkanen is worth so much more than Sharangovich. Well, adding two years to a deal is usually very expensive and forces a team to take a risk on a deal. Also, Kuokkanen came in with a track record. Sharangovich was great this season and he was better than Kuokkanen on all metrics, but he would rather take a chance on himself than sign for longer. Kuokkanen seems like he’ll be willing to sign up for the Devils for a long time knowing his worth is around where it’s supposed to be.