New Jersey Devils: On To The Next Phase

After being officially eliminated from playoff contention, what is the next step for the New Jersey Devils?

The New Jersey Devils have been mathematically eliminated for quite some time now, and it’s not necessarily because they’re bad. To say the Devils were dealing with lots of bad luck this season is an understatement. They got torn apart, and it took netminder Cory Schneider almost half of this season to register his first win. I firmly believe that they can quickly turn things around next season if they just stay healthy and win the off-season. It all starts with the re-sign phase.

Expiring Forwards

Unrestricted: Drew Stafford, Kenny Agostino, Kurtis Gabriel

Stafford, 33, currently makes $810k USDs, and has recorded 4 goals and 7 assists (11 points) in 57 games, averaging 12:02 time on ice. He has a 43.7 Corsi For % and a 43.6 Fenwick For % on the season. Clearly not his year, and one of his career worst season’s. I don’t see why the Devils would re-sign him when they can call someone up or get a top 3 pick and an NHL ready player through this season’s draft.

Agostino, 26, currently makes $700k USDs, recording 6 goals and 16 assists (22 points) in 58 games, averaging 12:35 time on ice. He has a 54.1 CF% and a 52.1 FF% this season, split between Montreal and New Jersey. He has played in a career high amount of games, and has had one of his best seasons individually. He could cost about $800k-$1.5 million USD over, at most, a three year span. He’s been a decent addition for the Devils, and will look to continue that moving forward.

Gabriel, 25, currently makes $650k USDs, recording 2 goals and 2 assists (4 points) in 22 games, averaging 7:22 time on ice. He has a 37.1 CF% and a 38.3 FF% this season, both career highs. Gabriel has been extremely unreliable at the NHL level through the three separate stints that he has had in his career. He’s a very cheap option, but he just isn’t NHL level talent, and will most likely stay in the AHL for years to come.

Restricted: Stefan Noesen, Pavel Zacha

Noesen, 26, currently makes $1.725 million USDs, recording 3 goals and 5 assists (8 points) in 37 games, averaging 12:40 time on ice. He has a 44 CF% and a 44.9 FF%, which are his worst possession numbers in 5 years. He hasn’t been a fit for the Devils, as his defensive and possession numbers are a staple to his game, and he has struggled in those areas. He is a solid 3rd liner, but not in New Jersey.

Zacha, 21, is making $894k USDs, on his final year for his rookie contract, recording 12 goals and 9 assists (21 points), a career low since he has been in the NHL consistently. He has posted a 46.3 CF% and a 47 FF%, also career lows. He has not become the first round pick (6th overall) that he was expected to become. Might be best to go their separate ways, but after a 2 year deal is signed and through a trade. I’d guess a $1.5 million USD deal through that term, and dealt to a new team.

Expiring Defensemen

Unrestricted: Egor Yakovlev

Yakovlev, 27, is currently making $925k, recording 2 goals and 4 assists (6 points) in 24 games, averaging 15:37 time on ice, in his first NHL season. He has a 44.2 CF% and a 42.2 FF% this season, which isn’t great. Unfortunately, no visual for Yakovlev is available at this point in time, however, he has not been bad for New Jersey. Maybe a 1 year deal at, or around, the current cap hit he has now.

Restricted: Connor Carrick, Will Butcher, Mirco Mueller

Carrick, 24, is currently making $1.3 million USDs, recording 1 goal and 8 assists (9 points) in 29 games, with 5 points coming in the 15 games he has played with the Devils (he played for Dallas, previously), averaging 16:15 time on ice. He has a 47.1 CF% and FF%, both career lows since his age 19 rookie season with Washington. Here’s a visual from CJ Turtoro’s a3z player comparison tool:

Carrick

visual from CJ Turtoro, stats from Corey Sznajder

As shown in the visual, Carrick isn’t exactly creating chances through his shooting, although he has not been bad there, either. He has trouble entering the offensive zone, but excels at breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and up the ice. He does a relatively decent job at limiting his opponents entry chances. Based on the visual, his stats, and his age, as well as where the Devils stand, roster-wise, Carrick could get a 2-3 year contract, worth up to $2-$3 million USDs.

Butcher, 24, is on his final year of his entry-level contract, worth $925k, recording 4 goals and 25 assists (29 points), in 73 games, averaging 19:19 time on ice. He has a 50.3 CF% and 51.2 FF%. With these numbers, he clearly is the priority this off-season for the Devils. Here’s Butcher’s visual from CJ Turtoro:

Butcher.jpg

visual from CJ Turtoro, stats from Corey Sznajder

Butcher does a decent job of gathering assists off his shots, but like Carrick, doesn’t generate much offense off of it. Also like Carrick, Butcher isn’t great at getting into the offensive zone, but is a breakout wizard. Where he stands out, is in his ability to shut down opponents who are trying to enter the Devils zone, as he has been fantastic at breaking their chances up, and just all around solid. Based on this visual, along with his decent point production despite the injuries to teammates, including Taylor Hall, he’ll be making good money. I expect a 5-6 year deal worth $4.5-$5.5 million USDs per year.

Mueller, 24, is currently making $850k, recording 1 goal and 9 assists (10 points) in 49 games played, averaging 18:08 time on ice. He has a 48.4 CF% and a 48.9 FF% this season. Here’s Mueller’s visual from CJ Turtoro:

visual from CJ Turtoro, stats from Corey Sznajder

Mueller, Carrick and Butcher are all similar in shot contributions, but Mueller is… sort’ve bad at everything else… These visuals are ugly, and the only thing he is decent at is breaking out of the zone. He has earned top 4 minutes in New Jersey, and he isn’t quite a top 4 defenseman, at least not yet. He’s still young, and the Devils could use him for depth next season. 2 years at about $1-$1.5 million USDs per year to prove himself as he heads into his prime years.

Potential Call-Ups: John Quenneville, Brett Seney

John Quenneville was the Devils 30th overall pick in the 2014 NHL entry draft, and it seems he is finally ready to make the jump. He has recorded 16 goals and 16 assists (32 points) in 33 AHL games. He is 5th on the team in shots, despite playing far less games than those in front of him. He is 4th in goals on the roster, as well as tied for first in power play goals (6), tied for 5th on shooting% (15.8) and 6th in penalty minutes per game (1:12). The 6’1, 205 pound centerman can provide a security blanket as the temporary 4th line center with power play time, and move into third if they part ways via trade with current third line center, Pavel Zacha, as I predicted earlier in this article. However, Quenneville’s entry-level contract is up at season’s end, and it must be renewed. If I were to guess, I’d say a 1-2 year deal, for no more than $1 million USDs. He must prove he can bring his game to the next level first, but he is promising.

Brett Seney is a 23 year old Center/Left winger who was drafted in the 6th round (157th overall) by the Devils back in 2015. Although he has played in 50 NHL games this season, he is currently in the AHL. He makes this list simply because he has stood out this season, and I expect him to make the full move to the NHL next season. Through those 50 NHL games, he has posted 5 goals and 8 assists (13 points), including 1 power play goal. He proved to be a physical presence on the ice, recording just under a hit per game, while also flashing offensive upside. In the AHL, he has recorded 2 goals and 16 assists (18 points) in 21 games. He has been a staple on their power play as well, recording 7 power play assists. Considering he has a head start at making the big leagues ahead of both guys listed ahead of him, it’d be no surprise if he ends up being the only one who sticks in the lineup for a whole season. He could be a solid 2nd/3rd liner with power play time, for sure.

If you are thinking, “You’re just a fan, and you’re the writer for the Lightning, so what do you know?”, then take it from the experts at public tableau, with this visual from Sean Tierney on probability of making the jump to the NHL:

NJD Potential Callups

visual from Sean Tierney, stats from prospect-stats.com

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AHL Stats via theahl.com, prospect-stats.com

All NHL stats via hockey-reference and Corey Sznajder

All visuals via public tableau (CJ Turtoro and Sean Tierney)

Featured image credit: Niko Michals

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Author: Kyle Pereira