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Devils Heading into Free Agency

 

The entire offseason for New Jersey will boil down to only a few needs. In the order that they are deemed most important, those are a #1 goalie followed by a 2nd line center and then a #4 defenseman. The first two are way more important than the third one as that is more of a luxury at this point than a necessity.

Brian Elliot is the go to #1 right now if the season was to start today, however sitting at 77 OV he isn't quite as high as he was last year when he signed as an 81 OV. While the league as a whole has less 80+ goalies, 77 is still pretty low and at a 4.6 million salary it's not like he's a bargain either. His numbers last year were extremely mediocre but with the team in front of him he did alright. Unfortunately, a lot more is expected of the team this year and now he might end up letting everyone else down. The plan is either to find some other type of 3-4 million cost goalie to run tandem with him, as a couple of 77-78 OV guys might work out before making a splash next January/Februrary in terms of landing a big goalie for the plaoffs. That plan would most likely mean trading or buying out longtime fan favorite David Backes, who at $4,375,000 is the second highest paid player on the team, while likely being the 3rd line center - at best. It would be a very hard pill to swallow to move Backes just to get a mediocre goalie taking up his contract spot but that also leads to problem #2 as outlined above.

Pierre-Luc Dubois is the clear go to guy for the #1 center job in the swamp but beyond that the position is full of question marks. Ivan Barbashev and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson haven't panned out as needed in terms of their offense, although Barbs still looks to be a fine 4th line physical style player for the time being. Nick Bjugstad is the closest thing the team has to a guy to fill the spot and if there are no changes, he would be #2 on the depth chart if games started tomorrow. He has some two way abilities to his game and has solid enough ratings however his 60 SC and 58 PA leave a ton to be desired for a scoring line player. Putting him out there with guys like Connor or Kane or Zuccarello is just not something the team wants to do. However at a cheap contract (only $1,400,000) it's possible it might be beneficial to start the year like that and build up some cap space either for that big move in net or up front.

A solid #4 guy who can play a good PK while not being a liability offensively would be nice as well but that definitely seems like it would be a bonus at this point. Alex Edler is a franchise guy for this season and should perform great with other two way young talents like Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Chychrun. While Chicken's development has been a little on the slow side compared to McAvoy both have very good ratings and should see substantial ice time this season. It's after those 3 that the talent drops off, as Kevan Miller and Dmitry Kulikov look like #6 guys who could play some PK while Sam Girard and Mike Reilly look more like #6 guys who might play some 2nd unit PP but can't be trusted much defensively. The one guy that leaves out is Ben Hutton who has solid enough ratings with 76 DF, 62 PC and a really solid 85 EN. Right now he might fill the role of a #4 good enough but his soft play and inconsistency leaves room for improvement.

Committed to next season right now is $42,960,000 in cap space with Brendan Perlini and Alex Kerfoot as the only main players to sign, granted both of them would likely be 4th liners on the team. Neither will likely cost too much with the team thinking under $1,250,000 a piece. If you do take out Backes' big contract from that ~$43 million number, that would leave a ton of room to play with and could lead to the Devils making plays when free agency begins.