New Jersey Devils: Salary Cap Hell Could Be On Horizon

New Jersey Devils left wing Jesper Bratt (63): Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils left wing Jesper Bratt (63): Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils made a series of amazing moves this offseason. It started with the eight-year deal that Jesper Bratt signed, paying him less than $8 million per season. It continued with a similar eight-year deal for Timo Meier, who was given about $1 million more than Bratt per season. After long-term deals were given to Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, most of the forward core is locked up.

The defensive core is in a similar shape. While the Devils were forced to say goodbye to Damon Severson and Ryan Graves this offseason, they have Dougie Hamilton, John Marino, and Jonas Siegenthaler locked up for years to come. Kevin Bahl is the last contract left to negotiate, but the Devils have a long list of prospects on the left and right side that they should have entry-level contracts for half a decade on the blue line.

The Devils can still make moves like trading for Tyler Toffoli and Colin Miller, or signing Tomas Nosek as depth at center. Yet, the salary cap issues might actually come when the cap goes up.

Next season, the Devils cap sheet would give them $22 million in space if the cap goes up to $87.5 million. The buyouts of Cory Schneider and Janne Kuokkanen come off the books. However, the Devils need to sign some very important players. The most important signing is Dawson Mercer. The 21-year-old will be through his third season, one most would expect is even better than the 27-goal campaign he had last season.

Some want the Devils to re-sign Mercer now. Getting this contract on the books gives Tom Fitzgerald the knowledge to maneuver the roster during the trade deadline. Can the Devils afford to deal for a big name, and can that big name have multiple years on their contract? If Mercer signs a deal that pays him between $5 million and $6 million, maybe not.

After the Mercer contract, the Devils should have around $17 million left to spend. The real issue becomes goaltending. Even if the Devils keep the goalies they have right now, Akira Schmid’s contract ends at the end of the season. He won’t make insane money, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility the Devils sign him to a $5 million deal if he repeats last season’s production.

If the Devils trade for Connor Hellebuyck, that number turns into $8 million, and the Devils now sit with just $9 million left to spend. With that money, the Devils have to replace Toffoli, Miller, Brendan Smith, Michael McLeod, and re-sign Nolan Foote. That’s less than $2 million per player.

Pucks And Pitchforks
Pucks And Pitchforks /

Want your voice heard? Join the Pucks And Pitchforks team!

Write for us!

Things get hazier the season after next. Luke Hughes’ contract ends in 2025, and he could get a massive deal on the next one. He already looks like the real deal. Some of his comparables include Cale Makar (although that’s the very top of the possibilities) at $9 million, Miro Heiskanen at $8.4 million, Adam Fox at $9.5 million, and Charlie McAvoy at $9.5 million. These are all defensemen who showed a ton in their first few years and signed massive long-term deals.

On paper, the Devils are still in a really good spot. However, it’s not like they’ve signed all their superstar contracts. There are still a few more, and it could get tight in the future. For now, the Devils are going for a Stanley Cup, and that’s all that matters.