Playing armchair GM for the New Jersey Devils
Alex Chauvancy examines a few different paths Tom Fitzgerald could take this off-season.
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By Alex Chauvancy (@AlexC_THW)
It's June 19. That means the NHL Draft is only 18 days from now, with free agency soon to follow.
The off-season will begin to heat up once the Stanley Cup Final ends, and it sure figures to be a busy one for the New Jersey Devils.
They have just over $25 million cap space to work with and have already been connected to names such as Kevin Fiala, Johnny Gaudreau, and Alex DeBrincat.
While it's far from a lock that they end up with Fiala or Gaudreau, general manager Tom Fitzgerald will make a few moves to improve the Devils this summer.
What does an ideal off-season look like? Using Evolving-Hockey's contract projections as a guide – and CapFriendly's Armchair GM tool – let's build a few different rosters that could parallel the Devils' off-season.
(Note: Jesper Bratt, Miles Wood and Jesper Boqvist's extensions will remain constant throughout the different scenarios)
Scenario 1: Nichushkin & Puljujärvi
Sign Valeri Nichushkin for seven years, $6.357 million AAV
Acquire Jesse Puljujärvi, re-sign for four years, $4.4 million AAV
Sign Ville Husso for three years, $4.5 million AAV
Re-sign P.K. Subban for two years, $2.75 million AAV
Re-sign Jesper Bratt for seven years, $6.125 million AAV
Re-sign Jesper Boqvist for two years, $1.275 million AAV
Re-sign Miles Wood for one year, $2.875 million AAV
Want size on the wing? Well, here you go. Nichushkin had a breakout season with the Colorado Avalanche, producing at a 33-goal, 69-point pace per 82 games.
He was a beast at five-on-five, finishing with a Corsi-for percentage (CF%) of 58.54 percent and an expected goals percentage (xG%) of 56.27 percent.
At 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, he's become one of the best power forwards in the NHL. I'd bet on the Avalanche re-signing him, but he should be a top target for the Devils if he hits free agency on July 13.
Puljujärvi may have fallen out of favor with the Edmonton Oilers and could become a cap casualty, given the Oilers' cap situation. It shouldn't take much for the Devils to acquire him, perhaps a 2022 second-round pick and a prospect like Kevin Bahl.
Though he needs to improve his shot, he'd be worth it for that price. His five-on-five numbers are similar to Nichushkin's; and he's an excellent forechecker who isn't afraid to get to high-danger areas.
Next is the Devils' most important acquisition. They've gotten unlucky with their last two goaltending signings, so hopefully, Husso can change that.
He finished this season with a .919 SV% in 40 starts and had a .926 SV% at five-on-five. He totaled a goals saved above expected of 14.18, ranked seventh in the league. If his season wasn't a one-off and it's a sign of things to come, he'd be a significant upgrade for the Devils.
Lastly, there's re-signing Subban for defensive depth on the third pair. He's not the defenseman he used to be, but he's still a perfectly fine third pair, offensive defenseman. He's posted good results with Ty Smith, who's looking to rebound from a disastrous second year in the NHL. Plus, Subban is well-liked and a good veteran to have on a young roster.
In-house, there's re-signing Bratt, Wood and Boqvist. After moving Jonathan Bernier to LTIR and trading Andreas Johnsson and Pavel Zacha, the Devils have $3.788 million in cap space in this scenario, leaving them with plenty of cap flexibility.
Yegor Sharangovich - Jack Hughes - Nichushkin
Bratt - Nico Hischier - Puljujärvi
Tomáš Tatar - Jesper Boqvist - Dawson Mercer
Wood - Michael McLeod - Nathan Bastian/Fabian Zetterlund
Jonas Siegenthaler - Dougie Hamilton
Ryan Graves - Damon Severson
Smith - Subban
Scenario 2: Fiala SZN
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