The New Jersey Devils have a way with late-round picks. They took Yegor Sharangovich in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL Draft, and now he’s a mainstay in the top six. They got Miles Wood in the fourth round, and he’s a very important part of this team moving forward. Alexander Kerfoot was a great fifth-round pick, if only they could have signed him out of college. The Devils also have third-round pick Nico Daws, fourth-round pick Tyce Thompson, and fifth-round pick Arseni Gritzyuk as likely NHL players in the near future. However, the crown jewel of the Devils late drafting prowess is Jesper Bratt.
After taking Bratt in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Bratt needed just one more season to get signed to an NHL contract. He actually made the team after an amazing development camp and an even better preseason. He’s been on the NHL roster ever since.
This past season, we saw the very best of Jesper Bratt. He scored just under a point per game pace, and he was at times the best forward on the Devils. When Jack Hughes was injured, he took over the role of play driver. Despite being on a team with a dreadful power play, Bratt was phenomenal this season. Imagine a Bratt who could actually put up goals with the man advantage? He had just three this season (although he did have 15 power-play assists).
The New Jersey Devils should not consider a Jesper Bratt trade.
This is all to say that the discourse around Bratt’s availability is insane. The Devils do need to sign him to a new contract, and the last time they were in contract negotiations things got contentious. That doesn’t mean anything this time. For one, the last time the Devils negotiated with Bratt, we were smack dab in the middle of the pandemic. Now, things are much, much better (not done, but better).
When huge names like Frank Seravalli and Kevin Weekes report on Bratt’s availability, that will move the needle. However, that doesn’t mean the sources giving them this information don’t have an agenda. Remember why teams give people like Weekes and Seravalli information. They know if they give them news bits, they will also be able to give them updates on rumors that could put pressure on general managers.
Meanwhile, the Devils are desperate for more talent. How does trading Jesper Bratt ever get them “more” talent? What player that’s actually available would get them more talented right now? The Devils have one winger who really proved he can be worthy of a top-six forward position outside of Bratt. Let’s say the Devils are SURE that Alexander Holtz can take another one of those roles next season. That still leaves one glaring hole at a top-six winger position that should not go to either Pavel Zacha or Miles Wood. If the Devils trade Bratt, they would either get a top-six winger back or they would create two holes at a crucial position.
Think about the players that are worth a Jesper Bratt or would improve the Devils’ situation. Matthew Tkachuk, Mitch Marner, and Alex DeBrincat come to mind, and none of them are getting traded for Bratt straight up. The Devils would have to give up more. We don’t see that happening. Outside of DeBrincat, those players probably aren’t available.
The players you are looking for are in the high-cost veteran range. So, the Devils are going to trade a 23-year-old winger who is coming off his best season after a few seasons of really good underlying numbers for a player who brings a veteran presence when it’s one of the better UFA classes in recent memory?
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The Devils trading Bratt makes no sense. There is no scenario where they win a Bratt trade. This is why Fitzgerald should just go back to the negotiating table with Bratt’s agent and ignore the noise. This team is better with Bratt on it than they are with the assets they would get in a deal.