The New Jersey Devils have a big offseason yet again. Signing or not re-signing its current free agent crop might be the easiest thing they have to do, but it is still a very important thing to get right. They can’t afford to overpay, like every team, but some players have earned a payday. So let’s look at who is up for a new deal and what the team could be looking at in terms of payment.
We all know how good a season Jesper Bratt just had. The 23-year-old is up for a big payday after betting on himself and making under $3 million each of the last two seasons. He was almost a point-per-game player and nearly pushed 30 goals, so he will be one of the biggest contracts on this team.
So what will his deal be worth?
It was a great season, even if it was only one, but the Devils do have some leverage considering he was a 30-point guy for four years. That was partially thanks to season shortages and injuries, but this most recent season was still his best on a point-per-game basis.
The team still needs to add players and be flexible on the cap, but as a key piece and their best winger, Bratt has earned his payday and the team should be looking for a deal around the $7 million per season range for the next 6-8 years. This would give him a big guaranteed payday and put him right up there with the two star centremen in terms of money and importance. It guarantees a top winger for the franchise in the long term.
The Devils missed the big frame and big heart of Miles Wood pretty much the whole season. He played only three games and his presence was sorely missed. The team lacked not just size but effort sometimes and they need him back in a big way next season. He showed up to every game ready to play and he lays his body on the opposing team like it’s a playoff game even if it is game 31 in Arizona. After missing the season and the fact it was his hip keeping him out, his power in negotiations is limited. The team can go a lot of ways with this one.
The team could try to lock him up on a longer term like three or four years or go with a one-year “show me” deal. As for money, he could be looking for anywhere between $2 million and $3.5 million. It likely ends with the two sides agreeing to do the one-year option around the $2.5 million mark which is less than last year but it would be nice to see them take a chance on him.
The game Pavel Zacha plays is one that makes Devils fans and writers alike a little crazy. He can score when being fed by great players, but stars are brought down with him and he plays so passive, never hitting, and needs to be woken up every night or he will sleepwalk through the game. Not to mention the long streaks in which he disappears for weeks at a time. He has no place in the top six and the team can do better in the bottom six where they need some grit, some heart, and a lot of compete.
The team should trade him not sign him and it is time to move on but for the team that does sign him they will probably be looking at three or four years and around the $3-3.5 million a season due to him being a younger center and a big body.
Jesper Boqvist was passed over by a lot of prospects, but late in the year he finally came into his own. He seemed to settle into his role as the third-line center. He looked like an NHL player for the first time in his career. At 23 years old, he still has room to grow and will be competing for the third-line center spot next season. His numbers were solid, so he should be looking for a one-way deal and deserves to stay up in the NHL next season.
The team needs competition and to have guys hungry and competitive for spots meaning there is little chance for a longer deal than a year or two but after making near the minimum when up with the big league and on an AHL salary the rest of the time he should be jumping on a two-year deal worth $1.25-1.5 million a season.
Jimmy Vesey came in on a PTO and did what was expected of him, doing his best to fill roles for a constantly-injured team. It’s unlikely the team will be bringing him back thanks to the emergence of players like Fabian Zetterlund and Boqvist not to mention the fact that Holtz will be up next season but if he was given a 1 year deal for a million or so fans shouldn’t complain. Like this year injuries always happen and he could fill in on the bottom line but they would probably be better off bringing up some younger players while we wish him the best on his next team.
This one is pretty clear cut. While P.K. Subban did finally settle into a bottom pairing role at the end of his final year, it is time to move on and let someone come in who can either grow with this team or play a solid defensive role. They have enough offensive defenders and letting in too many goals is the problem this team faces moving forward so this is another guy they should let move on.