The New Jersey Devils had quite a few contracts to sign this offseason, including the entire fourth line. They went in three different directions with what is now formerly the BMW line. Miles Wood, Nathan Bastian, and Michael McLeod all ended up unrestricted free agents after the Devils denied qualifying offers to the latter two. Wood signed a long-term deal with Colorado that the Devils were never matching. However, they re-signed McLeod and Bastian to deals that likely come in less than what they would have gotten in arbitration.
The Devils gave McLeod a one-year deal. There are many reasons this makes sense. Bastian, on the other hand, was given a two-year deal. Bastian brings an interesting style to the Devils, playing with a big body, laying hits, and adding elements of offense that can come off as unique.
There are stretches where Bastian looks like a legit offensive option. He tends to position himself correctly, and that leads to clean-up opportunities. He finished the season with 15 points in 43 games. That is nothing to brag about, but Bastian was a different player before and after his injury.
Bastian separated his shoulder in the November 26th game against the Washington Capitals. Prior to that, he had eight points in 21 games. After he returned from the injury in January, he had seven points for the rest of the season. He missed more time with the same shoulder injury in March, and he never had the same impact.
Getting him fully healthy allows Bastian to get back to his game. Even with the injury, Bastian had more than two hits per game. While that’s impressive, it’s well below what he usually does. Just one year earlier, he had 194 hits in 60 games. This season, that is the Bastian we expect to see.
This is a player the Devils brought back after the Seattle Kraken took him in the expansion draft. When they claimed him off waivers, the Devils fanbase rejoiced. He was the size this lineup desperately needed. He laid hits on opponents, something nobody else besides McLeod really did. Now, the Devils have Ondrej Palat, Brendan Smith, and Erik Haula also laying hits, but Bastian is still the best at it. With a healthy shoulder, Bastian should get back to what he does best.
Where Bastian really needs to get back to it is on the offensive side. He had 11 goals in 60 games after he was claimed off waivers. That number dropped to six goals in 43 games last season. He also added one goal in the playoffs. With a fully healthy shoulder this season, we expect Bastian to get back to double-digit goals. He might even jump onto the power play again. He adds an interesting element to a second unit.