3. Ryan Graves
Things were a little different for Ryan Graves, who was still given major opportunities all season despite the additions on defense. Of course, the additions on the left side weren’t as hefty, but the biggest addition of all ranks Graves needless. Luke Hughes joined the Devils after his sophomore season at the University of Michigan ended. He dominated almost immediately. Now, Graves really doesn’t have the same chance to return as he did just a few weeks ago.
It didn’t help that Graves was very inconsistent in the playoffs. He was the main culprit of Chris Kreider’s nonsense. On multiple occasions, Kreider got around, behind, and in front of Graves to score a plethora of power-play goals. He eventually got better at the penalty kill, but he still made enough mistakes that he was noticeable too many times.
Graves is another player that is getting the benefit of a bad free agent crop. He’s also one of the top 50 free agents on The Athletic’s list, and he was given props for playing very tough minutes. He’s usually out there against the best lines.
Honestly, this one might be wrong. The Devils have a hole in the penalty kill if they don’t bring back Graves. Without Graves, they have two choices: play Dougie Hamilton on the PK or make sure Brendan Smith is in the lineup. Still, it’s not enough to give Graves a significant raise to what he’s making with term.