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1) Training camp begins in just a couple weeks and Miles Wood remains unsigned.
I'm told the two sides are working towards a bridge deal but, obviously, a gap still remains. That's not necessarily surprising.
Wood's camp is surely selling the Devils on his scoring efficiency last season and rightfully so. He potted 19 goals – 16 of which came at even-strength – despite averaging just 12:28 per night.
The six forwards he played the most with, in order of frequency, were Pavel Zacha, Brian Boyle, Stefan Noesen, Drew Stafford, Blake Coleman, and Jimmy Hayes. He wasn't exactly put in a dream situation and yet he was still one of the more efficient 5v5 goal scorers in the league.
At the other end of the table, the Devils are pointing out a) he is one year removed from a 17-point campaign; b) he is a restricted free agent; c) he has no arbitration rights and; d) he is not UFA eligible until 2023. Ray Shero has all the leverage and he's no doubt trying to use it to his advantage.
Ultimately, I would expect a two-year deal in the ~$2 million range (annually) to get done before camp. We'll see if that's the case.
2) The Athletic's Dom Luszczyszyn just released his fantasy projections for the upcoming season
. I highly recommend purchasing them – they're really good, cheap, fully customizable based on your league's categories, and the first $2,500 in profit goes to charity – but if all you want are point projections for the Devils, well, you're in luck.
I'm going to post them below and share a few thoughts. We'll start up front.
Dom has Hall's point totals dropping ~10 over the course of a full season, which I agree with. In August I wrote about how the Devils' power play shot an unsustainably high percentage with Hall on the ice
with Hall on the ice and regression would trim that. Oddly enough, I figured the decrease would be 10 points. Before you get up in arms and call Dom a Devils hater, 83 points is still really damn good. Dom has only nine players projected to record more.
The other day I suggested continued development, coupled with any sort of power play production, would likely boost Hischier into the 60-65 range
with potential for more. I don't have much to add on his projected number.
I think Johansson producing at a 50-point pace is a reasonable expectation. Let's just hope he does it over a large sample of games. With Patrick Maroon and Michael Grabner walking away, and nobody else brought in, the Devils really need a healthy and productive Johansson to stay afloat in a tough division.
Zacha's development is arguably as important to New Jersey's success as anyone's. Travis Zajac brings little offense to the table at this point so Zacha is the key to having two quality scoring lines. He produced 5v5 points at nearly double the rate in 2017-18 than 2016-17. If he can take another step forward – having Johansson by his side for a full season would certainly help – that'd be massive. A near 44-point pace might be a bit optimistic. I could see him approaching 40, though.
There is a simple explanation for why Wood's projection seems low: that's the number based on him playing just over 12:30 per night. If he were to be given a chance in the top-6, which I think would be smart, that number would obviously jump.
To the defense we go.
Given Will Butcher's play-driving ability, power play prowess, and the fact he's destined for a top-4 role, he may be the most important defender on the team this season. It would be ideal for that 82 game projection to come to fruition.
As a whole, this really puts into perspective how badly the Devils need another puck mover on the back end.
I mean, Mirco Mueller has 10 points in 82 career games and he's 4th on the defense in projected scoring. Andy Greene brings no offense to the table at this point in his career and Ben Lovejoy never has. Steven Santini is probably not going to provide much of a spark either.
It'd be really nice if Shero could facilitate another in-season trade for a top-4 defender. Is that realistic? Maybe not, but one could hope.
Three reasons to be optimistic about the Devils heading into the 2018-19 season
Three question marks for the Devils heading into the 2018-19 season
On Hischier and Butcher
Devils sign Ty Smith to entry-level contract
Devils sign Steven Santini to three-year extension
Power play dominance, and a little luck, behind Hall's big spike in production
The Devils should give Miles Wood an opportunity in the top-6
Damon Severson should benefit from John Moore's departure
Hynes might have found something in Coleman - Zajac - Noesen line