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The twins behind @EvolvingWild recently released contract predictions for pending free agent skaters
, which are based on production, deals comparable players previously signed, etc.
While they're obviously not going to be on the mark with each player, for the most part, I think these projections will serve as a pretty good baseline for what to expect in the coming weeks and months.
The New Jersey Devils have quite a few players – both RFA and UFA – in need of new contracts so I thought it'd be fun to look at each projection and share my thoughts.
Let's get to it.
D – Will Butcher
Two years, $2.4 million per
Since the lockout, only nine defenders have recorded more than 60 points over their first two seasons. Butcher (74) is one of them, joining the likes of John Klingberg, Zach Werenski, Aaron Ekblad, Colton Parayko and Ivan Provorov, among others.
Really cushy minutes at evens, and a lot of time on PP1 with Taylor Hall and co., helped the cause but his raw point production tells me $2.4M might be a little low.
What could help the Devils in negotiations, though, is that Butcher enters on a low as opposed to a high. Had his seasons been reversed, he'd probably have a better case for more money right now.
If the Devils want to do a bridge deal and see how he can handle a bigger role before committing long-term it's hard to get upset over it.
I think the perceived low (more minutes, fewer points, no team success despite the underlyings remaining encouraging) could make it a good time to invest longer-term, though. They could probably tack on a few more years and still have Butcher's annual salary start with a 3.
With Hall, Nico Hischier, and any notable additions made this summer, going to soon eat into a lot of the cap, Ray Shero is going to have to consider making some of those longer-term bets in the near future. We'll see if the future is now.
C – Pavel Zacha
Two years, $2 million per
I think EW hit the nail on the head with this one. Zacha hasn't shown enough offensively to warrant a long-term contract, however, he is a truly elite penalty killer who, for all his faults and inconsistencies, scored at a 17-goal pace this past season. He isn't going to play for pennies. A deal like this gives the Devils more time to see exactly what he can be. From Zacha's perspective, he probably believes his play down the stretch is a sign of things to come and that his numbers could pop a bit with more talent on the roster. If that's true, he could get a little more down the road. A bridge deal makes sense for both, and something in the $2M range sounds accurate.
RW – Stefan Noesen
One year, $1.38 million per
If I'm not mistaken, Noesen's qualifying offer from the Devils would have to be higher than $1.38M. That number is probably more in play if he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July, which I think is what we're going to see.
Injuries, and unfavorable percentages, crushed Noesen's offensive output in 2018-19 but he has generally been a pretty good bottom-6 forward. I still think he has a place in the league. I just don't think it will be in New Jersey, nor should it be. They need to make room to add more talent, and they have younger, cheaper players within the organization (such as Nathan Bastian) who can play that kind of role.
The contract isn't unreasonable, but I'd let another team give it to him.
D – Connor Carrick
Two years, $1.1 million per
I wouldn't give Carrick two years. I'd let him walk entirely before doing that. I just don't think he is anything more than a 6/7 defenseman. Having him around as insurance in case Ty Smith and/or Jeremy Davies aren't ready, and nobody else is added, would be fine but, again, only for a year.
If we assume Smith is ready – it sure seems that way – Carrick is already 7th on the depth chart, and that's if we put him ahead of Steven Santini, which is debatable.
I think the Devils might give him a new deal and, should all go to plan with Smith, waive him in the fall.
D – Mirco Mueller
Two years, $1.1 million per
I am on board with this contract. Mueller has, um, limitations with the puck on his stick but he is generally solid without it. His shot and chance suppression numbers were actually really strong last season. With offensive-minded guys like Severson, Butcher, Smith, expected to be in the mix, I think it makes sense to keep someone like Mueller around – especially with the team's most 'reliable' left-handed defenseman, Andy Greene, soon to be 37 and declining. If his play falls off a little more, or he runs into injury trouble, the Devils wouldn't have much steadiness on the left side.
RW – Drew Stafford
One year, $844K
I don't doubt he was a positive influence on the young guys but it's time to move on. The Devils need to add more talent, and they need to clear roster spots for said talent.
W – John Quenneville
One year, $838K
He is a good AHL player and a fringe NHL player. It's clear he has been passed over by a lot of bodies in the organization, and it's only going to get worse for him once Jack Hughes is added and Jesper Boqvist comes over. It'd probably be smart to keep him around to be a strong player in Binghamton and the organization's, like, 17th forward, but I kind of hope the Devils elect not to extend a qualifying offer and let him look elsewhere.
D – Egor Yakovlev
One year, $801K
New Jersey's defense was not great last season and, at times, it was injury plagued as well. Even still, Yakovlev was sparingly used and half the time it was out of position as a forward. He might not be a NHL player, but I don't think he was really given a fair shake to prove it in New Jersey. If he wants to play for pennies (relatively speaking) and try his luck in the NHL again, it will be elsewhere.
W – Kenny Agostino
One year, $763K
He averaged nearly 1.70 points per 60 at 5v5 with the Devils, worked his tail off, and was actually one of the more consistent players in terms of throwing his weight around. I think he earned a cheap short-term deal (probably a tad more expensive than projected) and a chance to fight for a depth spot in October, and I expect he'll get one with the Devils.
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Jack Hughes changes everything
Don't sleep on Jesper Boqvist
The Devils should target Jason Zucker
The Kaapo Kakko blog™
The Jack Hughes blog™