Who stays, who goes? UFA edition
In the first part of this mini-series, we'll take a look at the New Jersey Devils' upcoming UFA class and how things might play out.
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It feels like the New Jersey Devils’ playoff run just ended and yet it’s already time to turn the page and look ahead to what will be an extremely busy off-season for general manager Tom Fitzgerald.
With 13 NHL regulars on expiring contracts (eight restricted, five unrestricted), he needs to make decisions on – and/or negotiate with – more than half of the roster that helped guide the team to its most successful regular season.
These aren’t just depth pieces and replacement level players that need to be re-signed or replaced. There’s a 40 goal scorer, a dynamic 70+ point winger, two top-9 complimentary forwards, two defensemen with long histories of playing top-4 minutes, and more. Suffice to say, Fitzgerald has his work cut out for him.
In the coming days I’m going to take a closer look at the standing of each player on the roster and guess how things will play out with that player – whether they’re brought back, traded, or walked to the open market.
We’ll start with the UFAs.
I don’t think Haula gets enough credit for the season he put together in New Jersey. He struggled to finish plays for a healthy chunk of the year but, even so, he provided the Devils with everything they could’ve hoped for when acquiring him.
He produced 41 points, drove play, was a fierce forechecker and penalty killer, and helped get the most out of the best player on the team in Jack Hughes.
Their chemistry was noticeable every time they played together and Haula did a lot of the dirty work – be it in the faceoff circle or in the corners – to help ensure No. 86 had the puck as frequently as possible.
While many criticized Lindy Ruff for attaching Haula to the hip of Hughes, the reality is Hughes fared better in every sense – be it shot share, goal share, or expected goal share – with Haula on his line.
Haula has made it known he’d love to be a part of this team moving forward and I expect he will be.
He contributes in so many different aspects of the game and I don’t think his contract demands will be unreasonable. Something along the lines of $3.25 million x 2 years makes sense to me.
Tatar had such a strange season. He scored 20 goals and flirted 50 points while posting some of the best on-ice metrics of any player in the league. It didn’t matter if he was centered by Hughes, Hischier, or Haula; he consistently garnered fantastic results and always carried his own weight.
Then the playoffs came along and Tatar reverted to a pumpkin he’s so often been on the biggest stage. His play driving metrics cratered and he managed only one point over the span of 12 games. Not good.
For somebody who has the resume – at least in the regular season – to command in the ballpark of $4 million per season, yet another putrid playoff showing will undoubtedly leave a sour taste in the mouths of Devils decision makers.
They have a lot of stars to take care of this summer and Mercer’s only a year away from a healthy raise kicking in. I don’t think the Devils will want to commit a chunk of cash to Tatar over, say, three years. Look for him to walk.
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