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Ranking the New Jersey Devils' contracts: Part 2

May 11, 2020, 11:06 AM ET [6 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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In the second, and final, part of this miniseries, I'll be ranking New Jersey’s contracts from best-to-worst.

I focused on forwards in Part 1. With fewer players at other positions, I’ll be looking at defense *and* goaltending today.

Only players signed through at least 2020-21, and not on entry-level contracts, are eligible for ranking.

1. Damon Severson ($4.16M, signed through 2022-23)

With P.K. Subban looking like a shell of his former self, and Will Butcher’s game regressing more than improving, I don’t think Severson has much competition for top spot.

The 25-year-old averaged 38 points per 82 games over the last couple of seasons despite playing on a team that couldn’t really score. A lot of his points came at 5v5, where he tied Alex Pietrangelo and Zach Werenski for 25th among all defenders.

Miro Heiskanen, Shea Theodore, Rasmus Dahlin, Jacob Trouba and Seth Jones are just a few of the many notables Severson out-scored at 5v5 during that period of time.

I know he can look rather nonchalant at times – or make a few too many head scratching mistakes – but, even so, his relative defensive numbers were still solid. The Devils allowed 5.81 more shot attempts, and 0.34 more expected goals, per 60 without Severson on the ice than they did with him.

I’m not saying he is a perfect player but I happen to think he’s underrated by a lot of Devils fans – and worth what he’s being paid. I think the problem lies more with the usage (at times he’s the No. 1) than the player. It’s not Severson’s fault the Devils don’t have enough defensive talent to push him into the 3 or 4 spot.

2. Will Butcher ($3.73M, signed through 2021-22)

My comment about Butcher regressing more so than improving? There’s an unfortunate amount of truth to that, and it has nothing to do with his point totals (though that only makes matters worse).

He’s yet to really move up the depth chart on a consistent basis, or face anything resembling top competition, and his on-ice numbers are still trending downwards across the board. Be it his impact on shots, chances, expected goals, or real goals, it’s all going downhill in a hurry. Take a look.

The good news is his relative numbers are still positive. The bad news is the margins are shrinking significantly. That’s not what you want to see from someone playing cushy minutes, especially when Butcher *should* be entering his prime.

While Butcher is still a useful player, in the span of a couple years the outlook has gone from ‘near lock to be a top-4 defender and PP1 guy’ to ‘OK 3rd pairing defenseman if sheltered.’

3. Connor Carrick ($1.5M, signed through 2020-21)

With all due respect to Carrick, a hard worker and genuinely good person, I’m not sure there’s another team in the league where he’d slot this high.

I realize the Devils traded Andy Greene and Sami Vatanen, and have some expiring contracts on the back end. That doesn’t excuse a No. 7 defender pulling in $1.5 million sitting as the 3rd best contract on the back half of the roster.

We all know how bad the Devils were this season at both ends of the rink. The bar to out-perform teammates was set very low.

New Jersey still controlled anywhere from 4-6% more of the shots, expected goals and goals without Carrick on the ice.

And of the 13 players Carrick spent at least 60 minutes on the ice with, 12 posted a worse Corsi For% during that time.

4. P.K. Subban ($9M, signed through 2021-22)

This is extremely cut and dry so I’m not going to waste much time on this one. Subban is paid $9 million to play hockey. In other words, he’s paid to be elite.

The Devils were a tire fire and yet their share of the expected goals and goals was lower with Subban than without. That’s...not elite.

Subban only mustered up 18 points overall and was out-scored by the likes of Madison Bowey, Matt Roy, Robert Hagg, and Carson Soucy at 5v5. Also not elite!

He was actually pretty good on the penalty kill but, other than that, provided no real value in any situation. I don’t think some decent PK work is worth $9 million but that’s just me.

5. Cory Schneider ($6M, signed through 2021-22)

I loved Schneider’s game for a long time. I will always maintain that peak Schneider was truly elite and it’s a shame he didn’t get recognized accordingly. Those days are long over, though.

His save percentage has dipped in five consecutive seasons. He has dealt with a bunch of injuries. He’s 34. He is, unfortunately, cooked.

We’ve now reached the point where he’s not even a full-time NHLer on one of the worst teams in the league. Perhaps the worst – save Detroit – if not for Mackenzie Blackwood.

Maybe if he is bought out he can catch on somewhere as a true backup. I hope he can. But I’m not confident he can even be that right now.

Numbers via NaturalStatTrick.com, Hockey-Reference.com, and CapFriendly.com.

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