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What now?

July 4, 2018, 10:43 AM ET [54 Comments]
Todd Cordell
New Jersey Devils Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Follow me on Twitter @ToddCordell

Tuesday night the best defenseman in this year's free agent class, Calvin de Haan, put pen to paper on a four-year contract with a Metro Division team.

The problem: it wasn't the New Jersey Devils.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you he would have solved all the team's problems. He certainly would have helped, though.

Over the last three seasons, de Haan ranks 7th among 117 eligible defenders (3,000+ 5v5 minutes) with a Relative Expected Goals For of +5.23%. The Islanders were expected to score 52.81% of the goals with de Haan on the ice and 47.58% without him. That's a sizeable difference.

Using @CMHockey66's Goals Above Replacement (GAR) model​, de Haan checked out as the 38th best defenseman in the league last season. I thought that could be a little misleading since he missed more than half the year so I also looked at de Haan's two seasons prior. In 2016-17, he ranked 35th. In 2015-16, he ranked 50th.

His counting totals don't pop off the page at all but he's a good skater, he can move the puck, and he's solid defensively. The Devils really could have used him.

Nevertheless, they struck out and will have to turn their attention elsewhere to bring in some much needed help on defense.

As far as free agency goes, I think Dan Hamhuis is easily the top remaining option.

He won't bring a lot of offense, or flash, to the table but he's pretty stable defensively and can chew up some tough minutes. At this point he's a better version of Andy Greene.



Beyond that, there just isn't much out there. Brooks Orpik's best days are behind him and his foot speed, or lack thereof, would be an issue in New Jersey's system. Tobias Enstrom is injury prone and his game has fallen off a cliff. Luca Sbisa is objectively bad. You get the point.

If the Devils don't land Hamhuis, they're going to have to explore the trade market to make any sort of upgrade.

Justin Faulk would appear to be the premium option available but he's an offensive minded player who takes risks and can be shaky defensively at times. He's also a right-handed shot.

Would he help? Absolutely, but it'd probably take a fair amount to acquire him and doing so would be a little redundant with Damon Severson, who is already underused, on the roster. Their 5v5 profiles are pretty similar.

There's no easy answer to address the need on defense – especially if Ray Shero is looking for long-term options rather than a stop gap like Dan Hamhuis. He might have to get creative.

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