The New Jersey Devils are currently steeped in another hard negotiation with Jesper Bratt. The young winger is already in his third negotiation of his career, the last two were incredibly difficult. Just last offseason, Bratt and the Devils negotiated until the very last second. Mere seconds before we expected them to go to arbitration, they announced a one-year deal.
Based on common knowledge, the Devils attempted multiple times to avoid a repeat this offseason. The Devils made multiple public offers to Bratt. While the terms haven’t been released, the fact that they exist has been revealed by Tom Fitzgerald himself. Bratt even had an eight-year deal to consider this month, but clearly it wasn’t good enough for him to sign on the dotted line.
With Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman revealing that Bratt’s latest negotiation can be described as a “grind,” Devils fans are quickly getting sick of it. It’s hard to blame them, although we personally think it’s not the right reaction. Many want Bratt out of the building based on these negotiations. In four years, Bratt is on pace for three terrible negotiations. Now, he’s one year from unrestricted free agency. The Devils didn’t go through all this to give him a three-year deal, giving him a chance to walk to free agency in the middle of his prime. The Devils are getting some of those prime years.
That is, unless the Devils brass is as sick of this as some fans are. Then, a trade might be on the horizon. It seems unlikely, but we brought up five players who might be worth trading Bratt. Some would force the Devils to give a little more. One of those players is Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner.
Since he’s on a team with Auston Matthews, Marner sometimes is overlooked for how good he really is. This is a player who is capable of scoring 100 points, playing on the penalty kill, and doing his darndest to keep pucks out of his own net. He is one of the best two-way wingers in the NHL.
Bratt is decent in his own end, especially for a winger. However, he’s not even close to Marner.
The Maple Leafs could look to make a major move this offseason, breaking up the “Core 4” and adding flexibility to future negotiations. The Devils could be forced to add to the Bratt trade, but there are some complications there. Jeremy Ridgewell of Editor In Leaf brought up a possible Bratt for Marner trade where the Devils give up their first-round pick.
Where Devils fans might scoff at the idea is the salary that Marner is commanding. His salary is $10.9 million over the next two seasons. The Maple Leafs would probably sign Bratt for eight years. So, the Devils would be giving up a first-round pick (which would need to have conditions in case that pick has to go to the Sharks). There’s a possibility this move leaves them without a first-rounder for three seasons.
Is that worth it to increase Bratt to Marner? It also leaves the Devils will little to no money to upgrade the roster beyond what they have. They’d still be able to re-sign Timo Meier, but that’s about it.
We think the Devils would make the trade. Players like Marner almost never become available. Yes, the salary cap implications and the short-term contract would be a pain to deal with, but this is an elite player who makes the Devils instant contenders.