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Free Agency: RFAs - Michael Mcleod

May 30, 2023, 4:51 PM ET [39 Comments]
Guest Writer
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Hope everyone had a solid weekend and a meaningful Memorial Day. Condolences and a special thank you to families and loved ones of service members who gave their lives over the years for our country.

Last article, we tackled one of the biggest questions this off season: whether to resign or trade Bratt. I presented arguments for either side and previewed numbers for the contract or possible trade pieces and a partner. Whether we keep or trade Bratt, that top 6 spot will be hopefully taken by a similar-valued team member so for our simulation, we’re going to assume he resigns for around $7.5M (Again, I get that he may not deserve that much given his postseason performance, but the cap and market might make that a reality.)

Here’s the breakdown so far of a possible roster and remaining cap:

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)
Jesper Bratt - Resigned $7.5M (Assuming a trade doesn’t come along that we like)
Michael McCleod
Timo Meier
Yegor Sharangovich

Kevin Bahl

MacKenzie Blackwood

Remaining Cap - $23,782,500

Our next RFA to discuss is:

Michael Mcleod
Fun Fact: Mcleod played Canadian Junior league hockey for his hometown Mississauga Steelheads. While he was drafted in the first round, Mcleod’s current teammate and future Devils linemate Nathan Bastian was drafted in the second round. This was also the same draft that saw Jesper Bratt drafted in the 6th round. Strange draft when you look at the results of those players now in the NHL.

Season Storyline:
A 12th overall pick in 2016 following a draft pick trade off with Ottawa, Michael Mcleod took a while to find his feet and figure out where he would fit into a NHL roster. Constant growth in the OHL led to expectations that he could possibly grow into a gritty mid-to-upper 6 center. However, that was delayed due to injuries and bouncing back and forth from the minors to the main roster. The good news: he’s carved a great niche for himself now as the consistent bottom line center, developing as a faceoff specialist while creating “something out of nothing” scoring chances and being flexible with linemates, whether it’s been the BMW combo of Wood or Bastian, or the random slottings of Sharangovich or Lazar. Moreover, he made a name for himself this year as a physical scoring threat in the playoffs, including the game and series winning goal against the Rangers and a great shorthanded goal against the Canes in our 8-4 slugfest win.

Stat Analysis:
Every season Michael Mcleod has been in the league, he has improved in nearly every facet. He went from sparing use in his first year at 21 games to a near full 82 game season last year. His points totals have increased and he’s also developed well regarding face-offs, takeaways, ice time, physicality, and defensive assistance. While he may not be the goal scorer the Devils thought they were getting in 2016, his assists and team-first acumen are becoming strong reasons why we should keep him around.

Benefits and Drawbacks for Bringing Back:
Benefits - Versatile bottom-6 center who can play with nearly anyone, contribute in a 2-way system, and can factor in the scoresheet during tough playoff matchups.
Drawbacks - Hasn’t lived up to the 12th overall hype or made much of an argument for being brought up into the middle 6 center options.

Should we keep him:
Verdict - Keep. He’s become a strong depth piece that is consistent. He’s a “get what you pay for and more” kind of player. Keeping him will bring stability to the bottom 6 and he’s earned a roster spot based on his never quit mentality during the playoffs.

Comparable Contract:
Michael Mcleod is a 20-30 point center at 25 as of now. He could push into 30-35 points depending on the linemates and systems they develop around him. Keeping these stats in mind, some comparable players could be:

Steven Lorentz, SJ - $1.05 M
Isaac Lunderstrom, ANA - $1.8 M
Jake Evans, MTL - $1.7 M

To me, there’s no question what kind of player Michael Mcleod will be next year. He’ll most likely push into the mid-to-late 20’s points while establishing consistent physical pressure both offensively and defensively. He can also play with whoever fills out the 4th Line (most likely Bastian and a new piece in lieu of Miles Wood, spoiler alert for his article.) His price range will be between $1M and $2M. I like the idea of signing him and Bastian to identical $1.5M AAV contracts for a short term. I’m also ok giving him a little extra money based on his playoff performance. With that in mind, if we gave a little extra, his $1.75M hit would put us at around:

Leftover Cap - $22,032,500

Leave your thoughts or comments below. Raise Hell!

-Josh Biringer
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