With the New Jersey Devils signing Jesper Pratt to a one-year $5.45 million contract yesterday, the team is sitting just over $3.2 million in the salary cap space and still before Miles Wood arbitration. Even before Wood signs or goes to arbitration, this is the closest the Devils have come in years, and gives a feeling the team is ready to turn. However, there may be some concern about the team spending too much and eliminating its cap flexibility with a roster that has proven nothing and is not close to the playoffs in a few years.
In fact, if you take a look at the Devils page on CapFri Friendly, things are going to look a little tight this season, especially if the judge somehow gives Wood more than $3.2 million. The good news for the off-season is that teams can exceed the cap by up to 10%, which the Devils should not come close to doing. There’s more good news for next season as well; If the demons spend the maximum, then once they transfer Jonathan Bernier to the reserve of long-infected, they will get some rest, which will allow them to maintain a complete roster. So while it’s going to be closer than it once was for the Devils, they’ll be consistent with opening night and beyond.
Now if there is anyone who has concerns about Max Demons, they will be brought in somewhat by the Pratt deal mentioned at the beginning of the article. The Devils want to keep Pratt long-term, and as he returns directly to a free agency restricted by arbitration rights next summer, he may be asking for an extra raise, especially if he repeats (or exceeds) his numbers from last season. We also have an extension for Jonas Signthaler into next season, with his increase of nearly $2.3 million increased. Then there’s the question of requests for food from other youngsters like Igor Sharangowicz (likely), Jesper Bokvist and Mackenzie Blackwood (both likely), and Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian (both less likely) who might be looking for big increases. Can the Devil still hold this group together, especially if they do well and exceed expectations this season?
The short answer is yes; The lengthy answer is yes too, but with some factors that are obvious, and others that may be less clear. The first point to touch here is that the contracts of Jack Hughes and Nico Hescher will help the team in the long run, especially if they both continue to grow last season. Jack and Nico currently represent 18.5% of the team’s cap and this percentage will gradually decrease over the next fifth season due to at least the small increases expected as well as the fact that both will be on those same contracts.
The second point in terms of what will also save the Devils some money is to cut out underperforming UFAs, and replace them with internal candidates. The departure of Thomas Tatar and Andreas Johnson will save the demons $ 7.9 million; It also frees up points on the wing for a player in the organization like Alex Holtz (on ELC) to come in and try to earn a place in the NHL full-time. The defense will see that Ryan Graves, Damon Severson, or both may advance, giving the Devils either $3.167 million, or $4.167 million or a total of approximately $7.334 million to use in the new contracts for the aforementioned RFAs. Plus, maybe this would allow Nikita Okhotyuk, Kevin Bahl, or maybe Simon Nemec to get a full-time spot on the Blue Line. If the demons decide to pull the plug on the Blackwood experience, this will be more free to use elsewhere or in an alternative.
The third and final point here is that there may be players who surprise and require similar moves. Perhaps Fabian Zetterlund will prove worthy of a full-time place in the NHL at this upcoming training camp. While he has yet to sign a new deal, he is an RFA without arbitration so I don’t see a huge deal coming his way. Maybe he makes the team, or maybe a guy like Nolan Foote gets called up because of injury, and he shows he could be a good, cost-effective contributor. Maybe Eric Hola doesn’t work with the Demons and is left in free agency next summer; Maybe the team trades with him or another player who is scheduled to be UFA on the deadline. The Devils don’t really have any “bad” contracts, which means that even if they have to move players or give other raises, they won’t be put into a corner where fans need to worry about losing assets for nothing, or worse, trading assets for nothing. Something out of a bad deal.
The Devils may have offered some long-term contracts recently, but they’re still positioning themselves to surround their core with the talent needed to make the team relevant once again. They will still have some gaps to fill and some decisions to make next summer, but I think we already know who some of the names will play their final games at Devils red and black n 2022-23. Expenses have increased, but that doesn’t mean the Devils have positioned themselves as they will be packing their pick in the first round to give up a player’s contract for a cap space anytime soon.
Are you equally optimistic about the continued laying of the roof of demons or not? Will the long-term deals in place now help them or hurt them when it comes to raising players next summer? Do you agree or disagree with the list of players that I think the team might/would delight in? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!