New Jersey Devils Lose Johnny G, Flop In Free Agency

Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18): (Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Ondrej Palat (18): (Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports) /

It was a hectic day for New Jersey Devils fans as they had sights set at the top of the list again and for a while, it looked like they were going to strike big again. Johnny Gaudreau said he wanted to be closer to home and while it was clear he wanted to go to Philly they couldn’t make it work so it was down to the Islanders and Devils by all reports for hours.

However, this was not how it would end up, and out of nowhere the Columbus Blue Jackets made an offer and he took it which is still baffling fans on both sides of the border. From the Calgary perspective, they offered more money, more term, and are a way better team than the Devils. From their perspective, it is hard to think that they aren’t the better team. Fans are angry and rightfully so but in the end, it is the player’s choice and we should give credit to the franchise and GM for trying to go big 2 years in a row.

That being said they did what everyone knew would happen and made the panic move signing Ondrej Palat to a five-year deal worth 6 million a season. Palat plays the game hard and has been fantastic as a middle guy for the Tampa Bay Lightning but this is a contract that will age poorly and probably sooner rather than later.

He is 31 and his style of play it takes a toll on the body. How many times have we seen it when players lose a step at this age and then fall off a cliff or end up in over their heads when the expectation is to play top-line minutes becomes too much? He should be a guy who feasts on some easier matchups while the opposition sends out their best to try and stop stars like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov. He has also played a lot of hockey the last three seasons thanks to being in Tampa Bay which will add to this.

As a player, Palat has hit 20 goals once in his career, in the 2013-14 season. He likely would have hit it in 20/21 where he had 15 in 55 games. This team needs his compete level, but for $6 million per season, they needed a legit scorer and points producer.

Tomas Tatar was at the same level when it comes to being a  points producer, but they managed to get him for $4.5 million for only two seasons which is ridiculous when compared. Winning a Stanley Cup is important, but certainly isn’t worth this kind of years and money.

New Jersey Devils failed to impress in free agency.

The other moves made were the signing of Brendan Smith, who got two years to be a #7 defender which is a whatever move, and the trade of Pavel Zacha for Eric Haula. Haula is going to be on his sixth team since 2019 when he suits up for the Devils. This should provide a whole field of red flags, but if he at least puts some effort into his play then good move. Zacha needed to go and this is addition by subtraction.

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Moving forward, this team has not done a lot but Dylan Strome is still available as of this time this is being written and would be a great pick up so let’s hope the Devils get it done.