Grading Day 1 of New Jersey Devils Free Agent Signings

The New Jersey Devils had a busy first day of NHL Free Agency. How did they do overall?
Toronto Maple Leafs v Carolina Hurricanes
Toronto Maple Leafs v Carolina Hurricanes / Jaylynn Nash/GettyImages

Monday marked the commencement of a significant event for the New Jersey Devils, the start of NHL Free Agency. The team's focus was clear: they were in pursuit of defensemen. They managed to secure one of the top players in the Free Agent class, along with another defensive player.

However, they missed out on two potential top-six forwards as the Nashville Predators secured both Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Marchessault. Despite this, they managed to bring back a fan favorite. Now, the question arises: do we evaluate the moves made by Tom Fitzgerlad today?

Brett Pesce: A+

Unsurprisingly, what became the worst-kept secret on social media regarding what the Devil's big fish would be would turn out to be Brett Pesce. Today, Pesce signed a 6x $5.5 million deal worth $33 million total. Pesce, the 29-year-old defenseman, has spent eight years in Carolina with the Hurricanes.

While he may not be an offensive guy, as he only put up 13 points last season, his primary skill is all about defense. Pesce’s best efforts come from his blocked shots and his hits. Last season, Pesce had 113 blocks and 25 hits. While that may not be his best season in terms of those numbers, he’s still an excellent defensive guy. he hopes to be the defenseman the Devils are looking for. Which defensive pairing he will be assigned to is yet to be determined. Still, with the contract being less than what was initially rumored to be, Tom Fitzgerald did his job well and upgraded the defense with a guy like Pesce.

Brenden Dillon: A-

Along with the rumors of Pesce, there were rumors of the Devils acquiring Brenden Dillion. Well, thanks to Fitzgerald, the Devils continued to solve their biggest weakness in a single day with his signing.

Dillon has been in the NHL for 12 years, most recently with the Winnipeg Jets. While Dillon is also known primarily for his defense, like Pesce, he does have some offensive skills, as Dillon had 20 points last season. What makes Dillon an excellent get are his hits and blocks; he had 111 blocks and 241 hits. Dillion will most likely be put on a line with Simon Nemec as a defensive pairing, which could be an underrated defensive pair in the NHL. The only reason this gets an A-is is that the 3x4 contract is worth $12 million. The money is okay, but the years may be an overpay. Overall, it’s still worth the contract because of his defense.

Stefan Noesen- B+

So, after missing out on Jonathan Marchessault and Steven Stamkos, Fitzgerald decided to upgrade the physicality again by bringing back fan favorite Stefan Noesen. Noesen has been in the NHL for over nine years and has played with the Devils, Ducks, Penguins, Sharks, Maple Leafs, and, most recently, the Hurricanes.

Noesen is best remembered for his 2017-18 season, where he was a key contributor to helping the Devils make the playoffs and scoring the game-winning goal in Game 3 vs the Tampa Bay Lightning to avoid a sweep of that series.

So why was he brought back to New Jersey? He's been a significant factor in Carolina. He’s been an excellent player in the past two seasons, scoring two straight 30+ point seasons. He’s been a tremendous net-front presence and a surprising contributor on the PP, as he has eight powerplay assists.

However, his physical play made Noesen great, as he had 118 hits on the season. Just like Pesce and Dillon, he brings the kind of physical ability the Devils have been missing for a while. However, this only gets a B+ due to the contract Fitzy gave him, which was 3x $2.75 million, worth $8.25 million total. That’s certainly a lot of money for the type of player he is, and considering the fact the Devils haven’t gotten a top-six forward yet and will need the money to extend Dawson Mercer, that will undoubtedly be an issue—however, the talent and what Noeson can do still make it an excellent deal.