The New Jersey Devils have 14 free agents to deal with this offseason. Tom Fitzgerald has a lot of decisions to make. Six players can walk for nothing at the start of unrestricted free agency. After such a successful season, bringing everyone back might be the right move. However, in realistic terms, that’s not possible.
The Devils are expected to have around $34 million in cap space next season. However, they must make room for Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier’s new deals. That will take up at least half of that available cap space. Then, with the rest, the Devils have to fill nine positions. Most of those positions will go to entry-level contracts or deals paying less than $2 million.
The Devils still can’t afford to give players raises from their current deals. Jonas Siegenthaler’s new deal starts this year. Too much money is being spent on stars, so the veterans will likely be playing elsewhere. That doesn’t mean everyone is leaving. In fact, one very crucial player is almost guaranteed to return.
Next Team: New Jersey Devils
Everyone is making it very clear that the goal is for Erik Haula to be a member of the New Jersey Devils moving forward. He said in the final press conference of the year that his goal is to return. Tom Fitzgerald made it clear that’s also his priority.
Haula has played for seven different franchises in 10 years. He struggled to find a proper home. He was snagged from Minnesota in the Vegas Expansion Draft. His 29 goal season helped propel the Golden Knights to that first surprising season. After a down second year, he was traded for peanuts to the Hurricanes. Then, he was included as part of the Vincent Trochek trade, spending his next season in Florida. He signed short-term deals in Nashville and Boston before he was traded to the Devils one-for-one for Pavel Zacha.
After all that movement, it’s no wonder Haula wants something a little more secure. He has a wife and a young child. The Devils can give him security no other franchise has promised him. That’s worth more than money at this point (which we’re sure Fitzgerald is willing to pay), and that’s why this should be a relatively easy negotiation.