New Jersey Devils At A Crossroads With Miles Wood

Miles Wood - New Jersey Devils (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Miles Wood - New Jersey Devils (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils have a dilemma on their hands in the near future and that dilemma has a name in Miles Wood. Wood is entering the last year of his contract and is currently among the younger veterans that the team leaned on this year. However, with this being said, Wood has drawn many comparisons to former Devil Blake Coleman. The Devils dealt Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a 1st-round pick and Nolan Foote. Whether or not Shakir Mukhamadullin will make an impact on the NHL level, the fact the Devils acquired Coleman for virtually two 1st-round picks was a lot more than people expected. The main reason for such a high return was that Coleman had an extra year of control. Wood is entering the last year of his contract, however, he is a restricted free agent, meaning the Devils still own his rights even though he is a free agent.

With the extra years of control, the Devils could ask for a Coleman-like deal from a team that would want his services. Two 1st-round picks for Miles Wood is a deal that the Devils shouldn’t think twice about. However, if they give him a long-term contract before the speculation begins, Wood will be a veteran on a young team that is on the emergence. This is the dilemma that the Devils face. Either trade Miles Wood for a king’s ransom now or sign him long-term and lean on him as the years go on and the young core develops. There are pros and cons in both situations. Wood is not as beloved as Coleman so the fan reaction wouldn’t be what it was with Coleman. Which was “We hate to move the player, but understand why it happened”.

The New Jersey Devils have to figure out what to do with Miles Wood.

Wood is an interesting character to look at with a more focused lens. With the eye test, he is guaranteed to have two to three breakaways a game. Something every team would love to have with a player. However, Wood doesn’t know how to finish. For someone that has as many breakaways as he does, he doesn’t have as many goals as one would expect. This past shortened season, he was tied with the team lead in goals with Pavel Zacha with 17 apiece. If Wood and Zacha are your two highest goal scorers, your team will probably not compete for a long time, which adds to the “trade him for futures” argument.

Wood’s greatest strength is his speed. His speed is the reason why he has as many breakaways as he does. He was great on a line this past season with Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian that provided speed, grit, and toughness. The three seemed to have formed a bond and were effective for most of the season driving the play and causing chaos, sometimes in both ends of the ice. Wood’s greatest weakness is his finishing. While that may be objective, he has 65 career goals in 323 games. With 704 career shots, he is shooting less than ten percent, which isn’t good enough for a team desperate for finishers.

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Wood was involved in the leadership group that head coach Lindy Ruff pointed out when the team had a players-only meeting. That group also included Damon Severson, Jack Hughes, and a few others. Wood obviously has the respect of his peers and is seen in the organization as someone that is trustworthy. Sounds like Blake Coleman doesn’t it? The parallels between the two players are apparent. The main difference between the two was that Coleman killed penalties while Wood doesn’t. However, any team would appreciate a guaranteed 15-20 goals in a season from a depth player, which is why the Lighting paid that price tag. It worked out for them as they won the Stanley Cup and potentially could repeat this season.

The issue with signing Wood to a contract extension shouldn’t really be an issue. The Devils have the salary-cap space to re-sign him to a moderate raise. But like Coleman, Wood is relatively cheap to what other teams pay for similar style players. It is the extra team control years that will be the driving force for any team calling Tom Fitzgerald about Wood. The situation ticks all the checkmarks of the Blake Coleman situation from last season. It may sound like a broken record, but the Devils pulled the trigger on the Coleman deal. With Wood, if the Devils deal him, they are once again admitting that this team is not anywhere near compete level and that fans should prepare for a few more seasons of being frustrated.

Keeping Wood, showing faith in him, and adding more veterans to help make this team a contender is the other option. Fitzgerald should be adding veterans regardless of Wood’s fate, but that is a completely different story. Letting the current forward core grow together while adding more talent could help Wood’s game grow. If he could learn to finish on breakaways and increase his goal output to 25-30 per season, he is a player that makes gives the Devils a better chance of winning games.

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Right now, he provides a little excitement and surprises all of us when he scores a breakaway goal. His game feels like it isn’t complete. At 323 games played, you would think he would be complete. Whether or not he is traded or kept, Wood’s dilemma should be something Devils fans should keep an eye on this off-season and to the trade deadline.