Was This Damon Severson’s Last Dance with New Jersey Devils?

New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson (28): Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson (28): Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

The longest-tenured New Jersey Devils player came into the locker room and sat down for his exit interview with media members wearing a hat that had the word VINTAGE on it last weekend. Damon Severson has been with the Devils since earning a roster spot after training camp in 2014. At the ripe old age of 28, Severson now has 647 NHL games (and 16 playoff games) of experience under his belt, and for the first time in his pro career, he will enter the off-season as an unrestricted free agent. So it is possible that he has played his last game for New Jersey.

“I’m a UFA, and that’s all I can really tell ya. It’s so fresh. We just lost. We should be playing tonight, that’s the way I’m looking at it (right now), so it’s unfortunate that I’m sitting in this stall and not putting my gear on getting ready for a game today,” Severson told Pucks and Pitchforks. “Free agency starts in July. I don’t know if anything will happen before that. I have no answers today for you. If I did, I’d tell you, but no answers at all. We’ll have our exit meetings (with GM Tom Fitzgerald and Head Coach Lindy Ruff) and go from there. I have an agent in place to take care of the contractual stuff whenever that comes about.”

Should the Devils bring Severson back? Can they afford to? Do they have the roster spot? Those are all questions that New Jersey’s management will have to navigate and sort through.

New Jersey Devils
Nico Hischier #13 and Damon Severson #28 of the New Jersey Devils (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

Here are the defensemen we believe are locks to be patrolling the blue line in the 2023-24 season: Dougie Hamilton, John Marino, and Luke Hughes. Those that are close to locks: Jonas Siegenthaler, Kevin Bahl, and Brendan Smith. That’s already six. Will 19-year-old Simon Nemec (second overall pick in 2022) make his case in training camp to earn a roster spot? Maybe 2021 draft pick Topias Vilen has a strong camp to steal a spot. Where does all of this leave Severson and fellow defenseman Ryan Graves, who is also scheduled to become a UFA?

“I have no idea what is going to happen (this summer) for me, but for the team, the goal remains the same. Make the playoffs again and sustain the success we had this year,” Severson said. “Personally, I just try to get better every year, and I still feel like I’m on the up in my career, not on the back-nine just yet, hopefully,” he said through a chuckle. “Even though I’m considered a veteran guy and a guy who’s been around a while now, you try to get better every year, always learning.”

Could management and Severson’s agent find a way to keep him in New Jersey? Would he take less than what is offered on the open market to sign a two or three-year deal? If Severson does make it to the market, teams will be interested. Teams like Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Buffalo, and Seattle would likely be in the mix looking for a steady, veteran presence to add to their defense corps. and they’re gonna throw a lot of money at him.

“It would be great,” he replied when asked what staying with New Jersey would mean. “This is all I’ve known, so it’s kind of a weird situation for me. I mentioned to a few guys when we were talking, and they were asking about it’s my first time being a free agent. I was an RFA, and you can only negotiate with one team.”

“It’s just a really weird time. That’s the only way I can put it. When you pull up to the rink every day, drive the same way every day for so long. I guess you can have perspective after the fact, but you appreciate it. You never know when the last time will be. You look forward to each day coming in and doing your job.”

If he does depart, it would likely be bittersweet for No. 28 after helping to turn things around in New Jersey following all of the tough seasons he has endured over the past nine seasons in red and black.

New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

“There have been some crazy names, players who have come through the organization over the years since I started here. I’ve had the pleasure of playing with a lot of great players and guys. It’s taken some time, for sure, to take the steps to get to where we got the organization this year,” Severson explained. “We kind of exceeded a lot of expectations – which is great. That’s what you want to do. Now, the expectation for the team here will be much higher – which is a good thing. You want to be known as a good team, as not an easy night (for your opponent). I have nothing but good things to say.”

The foundation for long-term success in New Jersey has now been established, and the expectations will be high with this group for the next several years. How could it not be with players like Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Ondrej Palat, and Hamilton leading the way for the foreseeable future?

“A real good team, real good leadership. People are taking steps in the right direction this year; we have some All-Stars on this team, some real good role players, and it’s just a really good mix. Everyone was allowed to be themselves on and off the ice,” Severson told the media encircled around him at his stall, for perhaps the last time.

“I have nothing but positive things to say. It was a lot of fun this year, and winning cures a lot of those things in the past that might not have gone so well. We did have good groups, but the winning just trumps everything. It made things a lot more fun to be around on a day-to-day basis.”

If this was the last dance for Damon as a Devil, what a run it was, right? A record-breaking season for the team, a first-round triumph over their Hudson River Rivals – in Game 7 (!), and the franchise’s deepest run into the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 11 years.

“I was really excited, the whole room was. We were obviously tired after a long, hard-fought series, but we were pumped. Any time you get a chance to beat those guys – the fans and the whole atmosphere is crazier in both buildings – and that just makes it that much more special and that much more fun when you can get the last laugh and beat them,” he replied when Pucks and Pitchforks asked how it felt to vanquish the New York Rangers after they dominated the Devils over the past few seasons.


He also mentioned how nice it was to have fans come up to him around town to say thank you – with some explicit words.

“Not necessarily thank you, but they’re just excited. A lot of swear words are used, but in the right context,” he added with a grin. “You know, when I scored that overtime goal (in the regular season vs. the Rangers), I got a lot more people running into me saying ‘that was awesome!’ and like I said, the swear words were flowing pretty good, but it was mostly just because of a positive and that we beat the Rangers.”

“Not that this is all about the Rangers, but when you’re the rival, that’s what it is, you can’t get away from it. To beat them, we’re proud of ourselves for beating them in round one, but unfortunately, we didn’t go all the way,” said Severson. “We won one series, but at least we gave our fans something to cheer about.”

New Jersey Devils
Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk and New Jersey Devils defenseman Damon Severson (28): Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

The fans will have a lot more to cheer about in the future. If Severson is not a part of that, he should get a standing ovation when he returns to the Prudential Center for all the blood, sweat, and tears he gave to the Devils. It wasn’t always perfect during his tenure here, but you won’t find another player who didn’t shy away from his mistakes and gaffes to face the media night after night.

Next. Predicting Where Every Devils UFA Lands. dark

Personally, I hope he stays at least a few more seasons. It would be nice to see him reap the rewards after all of the games he suited up for the Devils. It would be a shame if they end up winning a Cup in the next two-three seasons and he wasn’t a part of it. Hopefully, this wasn’t his last dance with the Devils.