New Jersey Devils: What’s Holding Up Kevin Bahl Negotiations?

New Jersey Devils defenseman Kevin Bahl (88) during warm-ups against Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils defenseman Kevin Bahl (88) during warm-ups against Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Morgan Tencza-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils have taken care of most of the team’s business this offseason. There were a ton of free agents, and most were allowed to leave in free agency. The Devils made easy work of their most important moves, re-signing both Timo Meier and Jesper Bratt. All of the restricted free agents and unrestricted free agents are either signed elsewhere or came to an agreement with the Devils (outside of Tomas Tatar). The one that is left is Kevin Bahl.

That’s not something we expected to say. Kevin Bahl seemed like one of the obvious contracts this offseason. He was a clear bridge-deal guy who was going to get close to the $1 million mark. Yet, here we are, approaching August, and there is no deal for Bahl.

What could be holding this deal up? There are a few things Bahl’s side could be looking for that don’t match up with the Devils’ expectations. The most obvious is money. Bahl might not want to take $1 million on a short-term deal. He is an NHL regular now, and he sees the state of the Devils left side. With Ryan Graves signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Devils need Bahl at least this season.

Maybe Bahl is using the Devils’ current need as a negotiating tactic. He had a decent season last year and is still incredibly young for a defenseman. At 23 years old, Bahl shouldn’t hit his prime for another three or four seasons. In the meantime, the Devils likely want to pay him as little as possible. Bahl could be asking for as much as $3 million. Anything more than that would be wild, putting the Devils and Bahl far apart.

The other hold-up could be term. This could go in a number of directions. Maybe the Devils want to sign Bahl long-term, knowing he’s only going to get better. They could see another piece to this core. On the other hand, the Devils might think Bahl is a good stop gap until something better comes along. It’s clear Luke Hughes is being crafted to be the top guy on the left side, and Jonas Siegenthaler signed a long-term deal that goes into effect this season. Maybe the Devils only want Bahl for one or two more seasons before flipping him for something they really need.

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Bahl could be looking for the exact same thing. He might want a long-term deal to get security with his future a little in flux, or he might want a short-term deal so he can make more money in the future. Bahl could easily earn a John Marino-type deal if he keeps getting better. He won’t get that now, but that might in his future if he signs a true bridge deal.

A lot can be holding up a deal, but the fact of the matter is we believe the deal will get done in a few weeks. Bahl can’t afford to miss any of training camp with all the changes coming on the Devils’ defense. Bahl needs to claim his spot, and missing training camp and the preseason in a contract dispute would put him behind the eight ball. We don’t see it getting that far.