Free Agency: RFAs - Jesper Brat
Before I jump in, I wanted to say thanks for all the positive feedback so far. I’ve also seen some great debates about the role of Bastian and Boqvist regarding their futures in the clubs. Taking into account your solid positions on the price of Boqvist, I’ll be adjusting his salary to $1.5 M.
As we progress further into this simulation, the questions will inevitably get harder. Resigning depth pieces is one thing. They are affordable, expendable, and easy short term issues. When it comes to a marquee player, one that produces at a dramatically higher rate and factors into games at a different echelon, the solution isn’t so simple. This is the case with Jesper Bratt.
Bratt’s future with the club and trajectory into NHL stardom has been a major focus this season. It's a great problem to have, witnessing a young offensive player take a major step forward. However, this being a contract year, we have to consider a few aspects of his game and the organization. Do we resign him long term or short term? What kind of deal will Bratt and his agent take? How does that affect long term plans for other resignings, particularly Timo Meier? Before we jump deep into the Bratt situation, here are the RFAs with my suggestions so far:
Nathan Bastian - Resigned $1.3M (could be 1-3 years, up to Bastian/Devils)
Jesper Boqvist - Resigned $1.5M (1-2 year prove it deal)
Our next RFA to discuss is:
Fun Fact: Jesper Bratt was originally supposed to play for the OHL team London Knights. However, he impressed the Devils so much that he was taken into the roster after the OHL preseason, scoring a goal and an assist against Colorado. The goalie in net: Jonathan Bernier, current LTIR teammate.
A mid-6th round pick, Bratt surprised everyone with his quick adaptation to the NHL following bouncing between the youth and pro rosters of Sweden’s AIK. In his first season, he found definitive chemistry with Nico and Jack before being bounced down a line with the acquisition of Patrick Maroon. Since 2017, we’ve seen two Bratt’s. The first put up ok numbers on a struggling devils team averaging early 30s in point production until the 21-22 season. When 2021 kicked off, this began a whole new incarnation of Bratt. Furthermore, we were able to keep Bratt while trading for Timo Meier, which gave depth to our top 6 (even if Meier was sometimes put on a 3rd line, which I didn’t agree with.) While I’ll dive deeper into stats below, a key debate point among Devils fans this season has been whether to re-sign him long term or trade his rights to gain picks, pieces, and saving a ton of cap space for possibly a more proven play-off winger.
For the last two seasons, Jesper Bratt has found a completely different level to his game. He achieved 73 points in back to back seasons. Particularly impressive, he’s topped his career high in goals in those 2 seasons. He can score in various fashions, whether it's with one-timers, grinding into the last defender and cutting in, rebound, or sniper shots in tough-to-see space gaps. As a 24 year old winger, that’s exciting to see. Coming back down to Earth, we have to acknowledge that he struggled mightily in the playoffs this year, more so with goal scoring while still contributing 5 assists to finish with 6 points in 11 games. Unfortunately, his shot percentage and plus minus rating has dipped down throughout the Carolina series.
Benefits and Drawbacks for Bringing Back:
Benefits - Speedy, talented, and valuable winger with years of experience on the team and proven growth.
Drawbacks - Price has gone up based on regular season (not playoff) performance. May create cap issues going forward.
Should we keep him:
Verdict - Inconclusive. I’m sorry to be so neutral on this but the pluses and minuses are so even to me that we’re going to look at what a contract or trade offer could look like.
Jesper Bratt is currently 24 with back-to-back 73 point seasons including topping 30 goals last year. Considering his current 1 year contract expires at $5.45M, he’ll be looking for a competitive upgrade. Keeping these stats in mind, some comparable players could be:
Johnny Gaudreau, CBJ - $9.75 M
Kevin Fiala, MIN - $7.875 M
Patrick Laine, CBJ - $8.7M
Martin Necas, CAR - $3 M (Due for similar upgrade)
It’s a tricky spot to be in as a GM, trying to re-sign a 24 year old winger who has excelled the last few years but struggled in the playoffs. The range is between $7 M and $10 M. I understand that this is a huge range but these situations are not easy to resolve with all the question marks. Assuming Bratt is willing to take a bit of a cut so the Devils can keep Timo Meier as well, we could see that range dwindle to $7.75 M and $9.25 M. I’m sure I’ll have disagreement in the comment section on this but it’s not crazy to think of Bratt saying that the club should pay for around $8.5 M. However, with his playoff struggles and the organization’s goal of keeping the core together with space to add and improve, I would not sign him for higher than $7.5M. That will leave us with:
Leftover Cap - $23,782,500
Possible Trade Package:
Assuming Bratt, his agents, and the Devils can’t find common ground to make a contract work, I would make a trade, particularly before the draft. With Bratt’s skill, speed, and talent, the first part of the package should be a 1st round pick that would make up for the one used for the Timo Trade. Next would be a roster player. I’m thinking of a upper-to-mid-6 winger to help offset the loss of Bratt and ensure depth. Additionally, we should try to bolster needs for our minor league roster to help youth development or try for a conditional pick based on Bratt’s resigning with the new team. Our partner should be one that has cap space, multiple 1st round picks, can compete at a high level, and owns pieces we want. My ideal partner would be the St. Louis Blues. My offer would be:
Devils Receive: 1st Round Pick (TOR), Pavel Buchnevich, Conditional 3rd (STL) or and Zach Dean
Blues Receive: Jesper Bratt and possible 3rd round for 2024 Draft to sweeten the deal.
I’m no hockey trade expert so what are your thoughts? Better package you’re thinking of?
Leave your thoughts or comments below. Raise Hell!