The New Jersey Devils have a crazy offseason coming up. General manager Tom Fitzgerald has said he’s open to trading the 2nd-overall pick, wants to upgrade the goaltender position and has to work out a new contract for Jesper Bratt. Those are three major moves that are basically unprecedented in one offseason. On top of that, Fitzgerald has to figure out new contracts for Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood.
Or do they?
A new report from Elliotte Friedman’s 32 Thoughts mentioned Zacha and Wood when it comes players who might not get qualified this offseason. You see, Wood and Zacha are both restricted free agents, but they have interesting qualifying offers. The way qualifying offers work is they are basically one-year deals paying the player the salary of the last year of their previous contract.
Zacha is owed a $3 million qualifying offer. Wood is owed $3.5 million. At the end of the day, would the Devils want to give them both one more season at those numbers before they hit unrestricted free agency? There was an abundance of rumors that the Devils were looking to trade Zacha near the trade deadline last season. The Devils never pulled the trigger, and now they are in this precarious position with Zacha.
Meanwhile, Wood’s absence was felt all season long. He’s dealing with a major hip injury that forced him to miss all but four games last season. He tried to come back too early, and he ended up getting shut down for the rest of the season. Is that hip injury something that will impact him long term? Only time will tell, but it’s possible the Devils don’t want to find out.
The report is concerning. The Devils would lose two players who had immense value for absolutely nothing. And they would choose that route. Right now, they have rights in the process. They could go to arbitration to find a new salary, but it’s likely Wood and Zacha would gladly accept playing on their qualifying offer.
So, the Devils have to decide what they are going to do next. Do they want to give both Wood and Zacha those contracts when they both had incredibly disappointing seasons (for two very different reasons)? If not, is it worth losing them for nothing when they have value on the open market? Both players would get scooped up rather quickly. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to lose them for nothing. Even if the Devils are able to turn them into a fourth or fifth-round pick, it’s better than literally nothing.
The report seems to be coming from other teams pining for players who might be available. It’s rare to see players not qualified. Last season, the hockey world was floored when Pius Suter wasn’t qualified by the Chicago Blackhawks and Nick Ritchie was set free by the Boston Bruins. Wood and Zacha at their best are better than both of those players by a long shot.
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The Devils will qualify both players. This is just talk at this point. However, the fact that this is even a question is crazy. Wood and Zacha were tied for the team lead in goals just one season ago. Now, both might be off the team if we learn anything from this report.