New Jersey Devils Can Easily Fit Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier Extensions

New Jersey Devils left wing Jesper Bratt (63) pokes the puck away from San Jose Sharks right wing Timo Meier (28) during the first period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils left wing Jesper Bratt (63) pokes the puck away from San Jose Sharks right wing Timo Meier (28) during the first period at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Tom Horak-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils have been the number-one suitor for Timo Meier according to many insiders. Tom Fitzgerald is looking to make a splash now that he has one of the best teams in the league on his hands. Fitz has been hitting home runs with his offseason moves. However, we’ve never seen what he might be like as a buyer during the NHL Trade Deadline.

That will change this season, and it appears Tom Fitzgerald is going after a big fish. He wants someone who can be here for a long time. Elliotte Friedman with Sportsnet said on his podcast 32 Thoughts that Lou Lamoriello famously said that you don’t go after rentals unless you really think you’re a Stanley Cup contender.

While the Devils probably hope they are contenders to win it all, they have no playoff experience. So, any move they make now that costs them prized picks or prospects has to have a long-term impact.

That’s why Meier makes sense. He’s already proven he has chemistry with Nico Hischier from their time playing for Switzerland. Meier has been one of the better players this season for a dreadful San Jose Sharks team. It’s almost a certainty he’s getting traded.

One of the main reasons the Sharks want to trade him is his qualifying offer. The way NHL contracts work for restricted free agents is teams have to qualify them before keeping their rights through the negotiation. That contract is equal to the price of the last year of the player’s previous contract. Meier’s contract this year is paying him $10 million. That means any team who acquires him has to pay him that same $10 million.

The Devils are starting to acquire more and more of these really big deals. Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Dougie Hamilton, and Ondrej Palat make between $6 million and $9 million on long-term deals. At this point, everyone on that list is worth the deal. In the short term, maybe Meier is worth that as well. $10 million is a lot, even on a one-year deal, but the Devils would want to sign Meier for at least six years.

The real issue with the Devils trying to find a long-term deal for Meier is he isn’t even going to be their main priority. Jesper Bratt has been negotiating with the Devils hard for the past four years. He missed part of the 2021 season because a lengthy contract negotiation led to visa issues during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Devils are facing two hard negotiations if they trade for Meier. However, it’s not like they can’t afford to pay both players. Despite those huge contracts we mentioned before, the Devils have plenty of cap space. Next season, the Devils have $36 million in cap space if they do nothing. Let’s say the Devils pay Bratt and Meier a combined $18 million per season. The Devils would still have $18 million in space.

The Devils do have to replace a ton of players this year. Ryan Graves, Damon Severson, Miles Wood, Tomas Tatar, Erik Haula, Andreas Johnsson, and Jonathan Bernier are all unrestricted free agents. Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Kevin Bahl, Jesper Boqvist, Fabian Zetterlund, and Yegor Sharangovich are all restricted free agents. We expect the Devils to bring back Boqvist, Bahl, Zetterlund, and Bastian for minimal raises.

Let’s say they all average $1 million to make it easy. That leaves the Devils with $14 million to fill nine positions. That sounds impossible. Here’s why it’s not. Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec will take the final two defensive spots. Now we’re at a little more than $12 million for seven spots. One of the spots will go to a goalie. That’s likely the better of Nico Daws and Akira Schmid, who have both shown flashes at the NHL level. Now, we’re looking at $11 million for six spots. If Sharangovich accepts another contract that pays him around $2 million, the Devils could easily fill its bottom six with players in that $1-2 million range.

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It’s going to be tight for a long time if the Devils sign Bratt and Meier long term, but good teams need to figure those things out. With players like Luke Hughes and Nemec on entry-level deals, the Devils can figure this out in the short term.