One dream, one realistic, and one bargain player for the New Jersey Devils in NHL free agency

With NHL free agency now within three weeks away, the New Jersey Devils must start looking toward a few different players who will help the team rebound.
2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series - Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils
2024 Navy Federal Credit Union Stadium Series - Philadelphia Flyers v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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Realistic Free Agent: Dakota Joshua, W

Defense doesn’t always have to come at the blue line, nor should it, and it’s one of a few reasons I listed Dakota Joshua here. Another is that the winger would more than make the Devils more physical, and for a team that logged just 20.3 hits per game in 2023-24, they will need it. 

Some may claim there’s far more to playing successful hockey than landing body checks, and that’s true. However, the Florida Panthers (28.5 hits/game), New York Rangers (24.2 hits/game), Carolina Hurricanes (16.87 hits/game), and Boston Bruins (27.54 hits/game), have set the tone for the Eastern Conference. 

Of the East’s top four teams, only Carolina was less physical than the Devils, telling us it’s a good idea for more hitters to make their way to Newark. But Joshua is more than just a hitter, as he showed us in Vancouver that he’s capable of being a half-point per game player who possesses an accurate shot - 21.4 shooting percentage in the regular season. 

Dakota Joshua could be a fine pickup for the Devils

The one red flag is obvious, and it’s that Joshua landed on injured reserve this past season and missed 19 games in the process. We know the Devils were no stranger to seeing their own players land on IR, so durability is still an unresolved problem with this team, and there is a possibility that Joshua won’t fix it. 

Still, he’s a forward who has seen just 64 goals allowed when on the ice at even strength over the past two seasons. He’s a supplemental asset to the power play and a primary force on the penalty kill. It’s also worth mentioning that Joshua was on the ice for 40 goals at even strength, substantially more than his 33.3 xGA, and he was on the ice for just 23 despite an xGA of 29.4.