The New Jersey Devils and Jesper Bratt are a long ways apart going into salary arbitration on Wednesday morning. The Devils are looking for $4.15 million and Jesper Bratt’s camp is looking for $6.5 million according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. That is a massive gap and something the team and fans should worry about.
Players that go to arbitration usually don’t end up staying with the team long term regardless of the sport, so it is probably important to get it done beforehand because he is a long-term centerpiece. Only Bratt and Hughes can push the play on this team. While they do have other great players, none can do what they can do. The Devils might have the advantage in this negotiation, but if the team and his camp develop a bad relationship it will hurt them going forward. He could even decide to walk his way to free agency meaning he will be dealt.
People are going to argue that it was just one season and he had never scored over 20 goals and 40 points but this is skewed by the shortened seasons. In 2019/20 he would have had 22 goals and 49 points. In 2020/21 he would have had 12 goals and 54 points so he has been steadily improving every year so it was not just a magic jump to 73 points from 35 points in 82 games like some like to think.
His linemates in this time have generally been Nico Hischier, who is great but not a massive point scorer, and Pavel Zacha. Anyone watching Zacha play knows his already weak numbers were massively inflated thanks to playing with these two. While everyone misses the net, he made such a habit of it that it got him run out of town. If they had a real sniper on that line, Bratt would have been a safe bet as a 60+ point guy the whole time.
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Personally, I would love to see them lock him up long term for $6.5 million, but right now the best case scenario looks like it might be just the middle ground option at $5.25 million for one year and then figure it out next season. If he wants to bet on himself there is nothing wrong with that but and while the Devils cant massively overpay or do something like a 8 million a year deal now they might be kicking themselves in a year or two for not just locking him up for 6.5 million now.