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Free Agency: RFAs - Sign or Trade

May 23, 2023, 4:00 PM ET [32 Comments]
Guest Writer
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Following a breakout year, the Devils are in a place they haven’t found themselves in for a long time: an offseason after a multi-round playoff year. Despite the youth and perceived inexperience of the core, the team came together to learn, adjust, and evolve, winning a 7-game round against the Rangers and pushing a strong Carolina Hurricanes team to 5 games. Being bounced out of the playoffs in the 2nd round was not where I foresaw this team’s season wrapping up. A great problem to have for a young, hungry team.

That being said, the dust has settled and while other teams continue their journey to Lord Stanley’s Cup, our next journey has begun. The Devils need to start planning for not only next season, but many seasons to come. Our first step is to determine what players will be part of that core and how we make that a reality in a competitive league with teams desperate to overpay in the hopes of elevating their place in the standings and league.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the first step: resigning restricted free agents. We have 8 pending players that are RFAs. The complete list is:

Nathan Bastian
Jesper Boqvist
Jesper Bratt
Michael McCleod
Timo Meier
Yegor Sharangovich

Kevin Bahl

MacKenzie Blackwood

For each player, we will analyze the season’s story line, statistics, benefits and drawbacks to bringing them back, my pick for keeping or not, and reasonable prices based on comparable contracts and projections of production. As a reminder, the Devils have $34,282,500 of cap space to play with in regards to RFAs, UFA resigning, and free agency acquisitions. We also have our 1st and 3rd round draft picks not available due to previous trades, a major factor in our decisions regarding RFAs. Let’s begin with Nathan Bastian.

Nathan Bastian

Season Storyline:
After being plucked by Seattle in the expansion draft, the Devils claimed Nathan Bastian back on waivers. He slotted back into the BMW Line at the bottom with McCleod and Wood, using grit to help shutdown defensively, scrape in tough goals, and bring physicality to two-way play and neutral zone battles. Additionally, I found that he elevated the chemistry on his line with McCleod, no matter who the 3rd player was.

Stat Analysis:
On the surface, a 4th liner scoring nearly 20 points isn’t too bad. While Bastian’s regular season (6-9-15) and postseason (1-1-2 in 11 games) may not scream superstar, that shouldn’t be what we look for regarding 4th liner. We should find a gritty, hardworking, and physical constant force for 3 periods. We should value tough players who put out clean hits and avoid the box, which Bastian did for the most part. Only going in the box once in the playoffs and sparingly in the regular season, he did not become a huge penalty liability.

Benefits and Drawbacks for Bringing Back:
Benefits - Provides stability and chemistry for the bottom 6 and physicality to a young team.
Drawbacks - Not many, as long as he’s brought back for the right price

Should we keep them:
Verdict - Yes. He’s a solid 2-way depth forward who plays well in a number of situations and can score gritty tough goals, a desperate need for meaningful playoff runs.

Comparable Contract:
Looking at his Devils tenure, he’s averaging roughly .30 points/game and 3 hits/game. So, gauging his physicality and point production, here are some comparable players at his level, position, and age:

Logan O’Connor, COL - $1M
Michael Essiymont, TB - $800K
Keegan Kolesar, VGK - $1.4M
Wade Alison, PHI - $785K

As his contract will expire at $825K, the range is between $800K and $1.5M. I would shoot for $1.2M - $1.35 possibly. Assuming Bastian signs at $1.3M, here’s what we have leftover to play with.

Leftover Cap - $34,282,500

Leave your thoughts or comments below. As this is my first attempt at a sports blog, please let me know if there were any areas of growth. Go Devils, Raise Hell!

by Josh Biringer
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