Damon Severson

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Devils dealing: New Jersey’s cap situation after Severson signing

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The New Jersey Devils have a long way to go, but it looks like they’re in pretty good hands with GM Ray Shero.

For casual fans, handing defenseman Damon Severson a six-year, $25 million contract was an eyebrow-raiser on Monday. The 23-year-old isn’t a household name, so a $4,166,666 stands as a scary (though delightfully Devils-themed) cap hit.

That deal might indeed raise some eyebrows, but maybe down the line, as Severson’s shown some very nice promise, particularly in 2016-17. If anything, there’s serious evidence that the Devils haven’t been relying on him enough.

It remains to be seen if the Devils can combine nice strides and baby steps to a leap in competition with enough speed to take advantage of the stronger parts of their roster. With that in mind, let’s break down New Jersey’s salary structure after Severson’s deal.

Masters of their trades

Opposing GMs don’t need to hit the red “Ignore” button when Shero’s caller ID comes up, but they might want to approach dealings cautiously in the future. Simply put, the Devils have been dealing well over the years, especially since Shero took over.

Taylor Hall – $6M through 2019-20.

If you’re looking for anti-Hall rhetoric, you’ve come to the wrong place.

He’s a superb first-line winger, and despite somehow being a lottery ball magnet, is still just 25. Here’s hoping that Hall gets a chance to show how fantastic he really is in games that matter before too long.

The beauty of his deal is that it’s fairly easy to move if the Devils and/or Hall believe that his best chance to compete would be to go somewhere else … while netting New Jersey some assets.

Kyle Palmieri – The Ducks must kick themselves for choosing other interesting forwards over Palmieri, who’s scored 26 and 30 goals during his two seasons for the Devils. He comes at the low-low price of $4.65M through 2020-21.

Check out how convoluted the asset situation was involving Palmieri, via Hockey Reference:

June 27, 2015: Traded to New Jersey by Anaheim for Florida’s 2nd round pick (previously acquired, later traded to NY Rangers – NY Rangers selected Ryan Gropp) in 2015 NHL Draft and Minnesota’s 3rd round pick (previously acquired, later traded to Buffalo, later traded to Nashville – Nashville selected Rem Pitlick) in 2016 NHL Draft.

*scratches head*

Marcus Johansson – $4.5833M for two seasons.

The Devils took advantage of the Capitals’ cap woes to lift a quality forward who comes at a reasonable price. “MarJo” could really drive up his value if New Jersey gives him a more prominent role.

Some concerns

Cory Schneider ($6M for five more seasons) was another nice trade get, even as the Vancouver Canucks have been very happy with Bo Horvat. Shero wasn’t GM at the time of the deal, so that’s part of the reason Schneider is in a different section.

The other: there’s a bit of concern here. Schneider’s frequently been downright fantastic, but 2016-17 was rough, and one has to worry at least a little bit that he might struggle more as time goes on. At age 31, it’s possible his best days are behind him.

Age could also be a worry for banged-up center Travis Zajac ($5.75M through 2020-21) and Andy Green ($5M for three more years), a blueliner who is used in heavy defensive situations. Ben Lovejoy and Brian Boyle seem like short-term placeholders with two years remaining on their respective deals.

Of course, the biggest concern for the Devils is also an obvious one: their defense.

Even with Severson being sneaky-good, that unit has a lot of room for improvement. Considering how sought-after defense is in the current NHL, it might not be so easy to make drastic changes to this group.

(If anyone can pull off some clever trades, it might be Shero, though.)

Young guns

The plus side of the Devils’ suffering is that they’ve been able to add some intriguing young talent. That’s most obvious in the Devils nabbing Nico Hischier in a rare moment: the Devils getting the top pick of a draft.

The key, then, will be development. Hischier might not be as much of a challenge, but can the Devils get the most out of Pavel Zacha and prized college free agent Will Butcher?

***

The Devils’ forwards group has taken some remarkable steps forward, to the point that the franchise may flip its identity in the near future as an offensively potent, defensively shaky group.

Of course, that’s under the assumption that management won’t have much luck bolstering the blueline.

This isn’t a perfect situation in New Jersey, but credit Shero for putting some impressive building blocks down for a team whose past perennial status made a rebuild challenging.

Devils sign Severson for six years, $25 million

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New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero wrapped up a pretty busy offseason on Monday morning with the report that the team has signed restricted free agent defenseman Damon Severson to a six-year contract.

The contract will pay him a total of $25 million.

Following the trade of Adam Larsson to Edmonton last summer, Severson took on a significantly larger role on the Devils’ blue line this season. He became a 20-minute per night play and basically replaced Larsson’s role and production on defense.

He appeared in 80 games for the Devils, averaging more than 20 minutes of ice-time per game, and scoring three goals to go with 28 assists. He is only 23 years old so he should just now be entering the prime of his career for the Devils. The contract might look like a bit of an overpay in the beginning, but if he continues on his current path and takes another step forward this year it should be a fair long-term deal for both Severson and the team.

With Severson’s deal now completed the Devils can enter training camp this week wrapping up a strong offseason that has seen them add Marcus Johansson, Brian Boyle, Drew Stafford, and the top pick in the draft, Nico Hischier.

Now that Severson is signed the top remaining restricted free agents are David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins), Marcus Foligno (Minnesota Wild), Nikita Zadorov (Colorado Avalanche) and Andreas Athanasiou (Detroit Red Wings).

Horvat, Pastrnak highlight list of remaining restricted free agents

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The dog days of August are over. The hockey world is ramping up for NHL training camp.

Seems like a perfect time to take a look at the key remaining restricted free agents, per CapFriendly, still looking to sign contracts for the upcoming season.

Josh Anderson, Blue Jackets:

Josh Anderson remains the lone restricted free agent for the Blue Jackets to sign, after they were able to get Alexander Wennberg under contract on Friday. Anderson, 23, finished his first full NHL season — the final year of his entry-level deal — with 17 goals and 29 points. After the Wennberg deal, the Blue Jackets have $7.987 million in cap space. According to the Columbus Dispatch, there had been a report stating Anderson would skate with a team in Switzerland if a deal with Columbus was not reached before training camp.

More from the Dispatch:

His agent, Darren Ferris, said in a text message that he had been misquoted and that Anderson is not set to practice in the Swiss National League.

“That is not the plan at this time,” Ferris said. “It is just an option.”

Earlier Friday, Kekalainen said he wasn’t worried about Anderson’s situation.

“He can skate wherever he wants,” Kekalainen said. “We just want him here when training camp starts, that’s all.”

Andreas Athanasiou, Red Wings:

Andreas Athanasiou is one of the promising young players for a Red Wings team that finished out of the playoffs last season. He scored 18 goals and 29 points in the final year of his entry-level contract. While Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has said the organization has made numerous offers to the 23-year-old forward, Athanasiou is, according to his agent, considering offers from the KHL. There were indications a couple of weeks ago that signing in Russia was a possibility.

“Andreas is evaluating the pros and cons of all the offers,” his agent Darren Ferris recently told MLive.com. “Andreas loves Detroit and especially the Detroit fans but he has to really consider the serious offers from the KHL he has before him. There is a considerable difference in the amount of money.”

Sam Bennett, Flames:

Sam Bennett garnered headlines during the 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs, as he entered the league at just 18 years of age. After a 36-point 2015-16 campaign, his first full season in the NHL, Bennett’s production dipped this past season with only 13 goals and 26 points. The Flames have about $7.165 million in cap space, so they certainly have room to get something done, with Eric Francis of Postmedia pointing out that the salary range for comparable contracts for Bennett should be about $2.5 to $3 million per year. With camp approaching, general manager Brad Treliving remained confident a deal would get done.

Marcus Foligno, Wild:

The Wild acquired Marcus Foligno, as well as Tyler Ennis, from the Buffalo Sabres at the end of June. However, they still haven’t signed the 26-year-old Foligno, who scored a career high 13 goals for Buffalo last season. Minnesota has only $2.14 million in available cap space. While he waits for his new contract, the physical forward has made his plans known for this upcoming season, aiming to score 20 goals in his first year with the Wild.

Bo Horvat, Canucks:

Bo Horvat led the Canucks in points last season — the final year of his entry-level contract. He’s due for a sizable raise, and the Canucks, after a busy summer for them, have about $5.3 million in cap space with Horvat still to sign. The biggest question now is whether a new contract will be long-term, or a bridge deal? Jason Botchford of The Province told TSN Radio that he heard Horvat’s new contract is a bridge deal. Team president Trevor Linden, a few hours later, told Ed Willes of The Province that there was “nothing at all” to that.

Petteri Lindbohm, Blues:

The Blues currently have one remaining restricted free agent to get signed for the upcoming season. That would be defenseman Petteri Lindbohm, who has split each of the last three seasons between the Blues and their former AHL affiliate in Chicago. Cracking the lineup full-time next season may be a tall order, given the club’s top-four defensemen are basically set, with plenty of competition for bottom-six and depth roles. Lindbohm’s three-year entry-level deal had an annual average value of $700,000.

David Pastrnak, Bruins:

Negotiations between the Bruins and Pastrnak’s camp were expected to continue Friday, according to the Boston Herald, with Pastrnak’s agent, J.P. Barry, ready to make his client’s case for an eight-year deal. That left Bruins president Cam Neely to discuss the possible impact Leon Draisaitl‘s recently signed eight-year contract in Edmonton may have on these specific negotiations with Pastrnak. Having turned 21 years old in May, Pastrnak enjoyed an impressive offensive surge last season with 34 goals and 70 points.

Robbie Russo, Red Wings:

Robbie Russo, originally a New York Islanders draft pick, has spent the majority of his time in the Red Wings organization with its AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids. He’s been productive there, scoring seven goals and 32 points last season on a team that won the Calder Cup. He did break into the Red Wings lineup last season, appearing in 19 games without registering a point. The Red Wings have a pair of RFAs — Russo and Athanasiou — to get signed, but they have salary cap issues. Specifically, they are about $3.02 million over the cap.

Damon Severson, Devils:

Playing in his third NHL season, 23-year-old defenseman Damon Severson reached career highs in games played (80), assists (28), and points (31), emerging as a key piece on their blue line. While the contract situation has dragged into September, NJ Advance Media’s Chris Ryan recently told fans that he doesn’t anticipate it will continue into camp.

“The Devils and Severson have plenty of options for a contract, and they simply haven’t come to an agreement at this point,” Ryan wrote. “Worst case, the Devils and Severson will sign a one-year deal and do this all again next offseason, when Severson would be arbitration eligible. But expect for this to be resolved before camp opens.”

Tyler Wotherspoon, Flames:

Tyler Wotherspoon has been with the Flames organization since the 2011 NHL Draft, but has yet to emerge as a full-time player on their roster. Since turning professional, he has split each of the last four seasons between the NHL club and its minor league affiliate. He is one of two remaining RFAs for the Flames, after the club inked Brett Kulak. Calgary is already set with its top-four defensemen, while Michael Stone should fit in as the No. 5 blue liner. Matt Bartkowski is also on the roster, while Kulak played 21 games for the Flames last season to Wotherspoon’s four. Right now, it would seem the highest priority for Calgary is to get Sam Bennett signed.

Nikita Zadorov, Avalanche:

A recent report from Adrian Dater of BSN Denver stated that Nikita Zadorov and the Avalanche are about $500,000 apart, with the 22-year-old defenseman seeking about $2.5 million annually. Earlier this summer, it was reported that Zadorov had a “mutual agreement” with a club in the KHL but was waiting to receive a better offer from Colorado, which has only three defensemen under contract for the upcoming season.

*All financial figures courtesy CapFriendly.

After signing with Devils, Will Butcher thinks he is ‘NHL ready’

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Will Butcher believes he is ready to play for the New Jersey Devils right now.

A day after signing a two-year, $1.85 million contract with the rebuilding Devils, the 22-year-old Butcher said he was ready to make the jump from being college hockey’s top player to the NHL without a stop in the minor leagues.

Speaking on a conference call, the defenseman said he chose to sign with New Jersey because he felt good after meeting coach John Hynes and he thought the Devils’ up-tempo system best fit his game.

Butcher was drafted in the fifth round by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013 at the Prudential Center – the Devils’ home rink. He became a free agent on Aug. 15 after failing to reach an agreement with Colorado, although the former University of Denver player said he knew by May he intended to test the free agent market.

After meeting with a number of teams, his decision came down to the Devils, Las Vegas, Buffalo and Los Angeles.

“It seemed like a great fit in how I wanted to play, and they saw me being in a better role with what they wanted to do there,” Butcher said of choosing New Jersey. “It kind of reminded me a little bit of how we were going to play with my college hockey.”

Butcher knows there will be competition to make the Devils’ roster with veteran defensemen Andy Greene, Ben Lovejoy, John Moore and Brian Strait and youngsters Damon Severson, Steven Santini and Mirco Mueller on the roster.

“I think my game is NHL ready,” Butcher said. “I think there is always stuff to learn and to pick up. That’s mostly the reason why I chose New Jersey, because I felt with coach Hynes (there) was the development and how they cater to guys and help you get ready for the NHL game.”

Butcher described himself as an offensive defenseman who can play defense.

“I am definitely more offensive than defensive,” he said. “I try to cater to my game in the sense of making smart decisions with the puck, joining the rush at the right opportunity and using my experience to help me play in the league that I want to play in.”

When asked what players would have a similar style to him he named Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks, Torey Krug of the Bruins and Greene.

“If I was fortunate to make the big team, he would be a great mentor to me, just because he does everything,” Butcher said of Greene. “He penalty kills, power play, all situations. He is a smart player, not necessarily the biggest guy, but he uses his abilities to defend well and play the game of hockey.”

Butcher could also help the Devils’ power play, especially feeding the likes of Taylor Hall, Adam Henrique, Kyle Palmieri and Marcus Johansson and newcomer Nico Hischier, the Swiss-born center who was the No. 1 pick in the June draft.

“I might not be the fastest guy or biggest guy out there, but I like to pride myself that I think fast and use my brain to be fast, in a sense that I try to anticipate plays and just try to use my hockey smarts to help me be effective,” Butcher said.

Besides helping Denver win the national championship this past season, Butcher won the Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate player.

A Wisconsin resident, Butcher had seven goals and a team-high 30 assists in 43 games last season. He had 28 goals and 75 assists for 103 points in 158 games with the Pioneers.

Devils agree to terms on two-year deal with Will Butcher

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It’s official. Will Butcher has made his highly anticipated decision.

The New Jersey Devils have agreed to terms on a two-year entry-level deal with the Hobey Baker Award winner, the team announced Sunday. The deal for the 22-year-old defenseman comes with an annual average value of $925,000.

Butcher, originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche, spent four years at the University of Denver. He opted not to sign with the Avalanche, becoming a free agent on Aug. 15.

This should provide a nice boost for the Devils organization after their draft pick Alex Kerfoot didn’t sign in New Jersey. He hit the open market a couple of weeks ago and — wait for it — eventually signed in Colorado.

In 43 games with Denver as a senior, Butcher recorded seven goals and 37 points. His agent, Brian Bartlett, made it clear during the free agency process that Butcher was not seeking a guaranteed roster spot in order to sign with a club. However, he should have a chance to make an impact on the Devils roster for this upcoming season.

New Jersey has been busy adding to its group of forwards, winning the draft lottery and selecting Nico Hischier and then acquiring Marcus Johansson in a trade with Washington. This signing should help bolster their blue line with the addition of a player regarded as a puck-moving defenseman with offensive upside.

Just prior to the Entry Draft in June, general manager Ray Shero acquired 2013 first-round pick and defenseman Mirco Mueller from San Jose.

So far, Mueller has yet to crack an NHL lineup on a full-time basis but that could change this upcoming season with the Devils. Shero still has work left to solidify his blue line ahead of training camp, with 23-year-old restricted free agent Damon Severson still without a contract.