Tom Wilson had a rough season in 2022-23. He missed most of the season with a knee injury, which led to his lowest point total since 2016-17. He was pretty good outside of the injury, shooting close to 16 percent on about 2.5 shots per game last season. However, the injury and his trajectory are incredibly worrisome. That’s why most analysts had a field day when the Capitals announced he signed a seven-year deal worth $6.5 million per season.
New Jersey Devils fans have always kept an eye on Tom Wilson. We’ve written about him in the past. It’s something about the way he plays the game, finding a fine line between grit and offensive production the Devils never had before Timo Meier joined the team. Obviously, Wilson often goes over the line. That’s something many fans were willing to overlook. He adds a ton to the lineup, so there’s reason to understand why.
Those fans are upset because Wilson is spending the next seven years in Washinton. Well… at least that’s the plan. Wilson didn’t sign in Washington thinking he could be bought out one day, but that’s the reality of the NHL. Any player can be bought out.
According to CapFriendly, Wilson’s actual salary drops to just $900,000 in the final two years with $4.5 million signing bonuses. That makes his buyout hefty. As we saw with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, that won’t stop all teams. Let’s say Wilson falls off a cliff, as players of his caliber tend to do, and he gets bought out in 2027, the Capitals would save over $3 million in over two seasons before basically paying his entire salary in the final two years of the deal.
The Capitals would try to find a different avenue to move from that contract, but we’ll get to that point in a moment.
Obviously, the Capitals want to prioritize winning in the latter years of Alexander Ovechkin’s career. He has three more years on his deal. If he’s hit the goals record by then, anything is possible in the offseason of 2026. If Ovechkin moves on or retires, it could lead to a rebuild in Washington. They might not want older veterans at that point. This is where the Devils come in.
At this point, Tom Wilson is 32 years old and has four years left on this deal. The Devils can offer to take Wilson off their hands at up to half retained. Wilson, in the latter years of the deal, is nowhere near worth $6.5 million in cap space per season. However, is he worth $4 million?
With the cap going up as we expect, he might be. He would definitely be worth $3.25 million. At least the risk of him would be worth it.
If he is bought out, the Devils would be in on him. They might not get him because another team could give him too much money, but Tom Fitzgerald would be on the phone immediately. Based on the proximity to Washington, where the Devils expect to be in 2027, and the fact Wilson can still harass the Rangers, the Devils would likely be high on his list.
The Devils were never giving Wilson the contract Washington gave him, and that’s why the Devils were never realistically trading for him. It’s just not a move Tom Fitzgerald would make. However, now that Wilson is signed, the likelihood he plays in New Jersey weirdly goes up.