Navigating the Salary Cap is probably one of the more important tasks for any general manager to have. Teams that can avert total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2017-18 season. This will focus more on those players who are integral parts of the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
New Jersey Devils
Current Cap Hit: $57,037,501 (under the $75MM Upper Limit)
F Nico Hischier (Three years remaining, $925K)
D Will Butcher (Two years remaining, $925K)
D Michael Kapla (One year remaining, $925K)
F Pavel Zacha (Two years remaining, $894K)
It turned into a solid summer for the Devils as they won the draft lottery and used that first-overall pick to select Hischier, a talented Swiss center, who put up 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. He is expected to break camp with the team and have an immediate impact. With recent injuries, Hischier could take over as the second-line center and start his career in a great position. The hope is he will help lead this team to the playoffs sooner rather than later.
Butcher has been a more recent signing sensation as the Devils also won the offseason bidding for the Hobey Baker Award winner after he became a free agent several weeks ago. Butcher picked the Devils with the hopes of getting immediate playing time, since no one is truly sure if he is an NHL impact player. The 22-year-old blueliner put up outstanding numbers as a junior and senior at the University of Denver, but chose not to sign with the team that drafted him, the Colorado Avalanche. With the Devils biggest weakness being their defense, the team is thrilled to bring him on board.
Zacha, the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft, finished his first full season in New Jersey, playing in 70 games, while putting up eight goals and 16 assists for the year. While those numbers look disappointing, he didn’t play a lot of minutes last year (14:18) and didn’t play with much talent next to him, although he looked good playing alongside Taylor Hall at points during the season. He should take that next step this year. Kapla, like Butcher arrives to join the team’s defense from college. He played four years for the University of Massachusetts – Lowell and signed a two year deal immediately after ending his senior year. That first year consisted of five games. Already on year two of his deal, Kapla must prove he is an NHL defenseman this year.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
F Ryane Clowe ($4.85MM, UFA)
D John Moore ($1.67MM, UFA)
D Dalton Prout ($1.575MM, UFA)
F Drew Stafford ($800K, UFA)
F Stefan Noesen ($660K, RFA)
The group is not filled with impact players, so the Devils have little to worry about in the short term. They will likely rejoice once’s Clowe’s contract comes off the books. The veteran signed a five-year deal back in 2013 and only played two years, before being forced to retire due to concussion issues. Moore is an offensive defenseman (22 points in 63 games last year), but is totally inept on the defensive end. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the team went in a different direction on defense next year.
Prout, who the team picked up at the trade deadline for veteran Kyle Quincey, only played 14 games for the Devils and it might take all season to determine whether or not he has value. Stafford, who just signed recently to a one-year deal, could easily be a bargaining chip at the trade deadline. After putting up 21 goals two seasons ago while with the Winnipeg Jets, his value dropped as he scored just eight goals between the Jets and the Boston Bruins last season. The Devils, however, are counting on a bounce-back season, which could eventually net them some more young talent. Noesen, who signed a one-year, two-way contract will try to make the roster this year after scoring six goals in 32 games for New Jersey last season.
Two Years Remaining
F Marcus Johansson ($4.58MM, UFA)
F Adam Henrique ($4MM, UFA)
F Brian Boyle ($2.75MM, UFA)
D Ben Lovejoy ($2.67MM, UFA)
G Keith Kinkaid ($1.25MM, UFA)
The team picked up some much-needed scoring in Johansson from the division rival Capitals for a second and a third round pick, but the 26-year-old winger scored 24 goals last year, albeit on a offensive juggernaut. The former first-round pick in 2009 has averaged 20 goals in the past three seasons and he should get even more ice time in New Jersey than he saw in Washington. The team has two years to see whether the forward is worth holding onto as a future piece or as future trade bait.
The Devils have a much better knowledge on what Henrique can do. The 27-year-old center has had a 30-goal season (in the 2015-16 season) and has put up nice scoring numbers, but assists have been few, especially for a center. He had a down year last year, putting up 20 goals, but only had 20 assists to go with that. For a top-six center, those numbers are a little disappointing. The Devils still have two more years to see if he can develop, otherwise it’s more likely the two teams could part ways.
As for Boyle, the Devils brought the 32-year-old in on a two-year deal to provide veteran leadership and a person who can center one of the bottom two lines and the team was praised for that signing. Lovejoy provides the team with a strong defensive presence, but like most of the defense, he is very one-sided. He is great on defense, but can’t produce much on offense, finishing last year with seven points in 82 games. At 33, this is likely his last contract with the Devils. Kinkaid returns as a quality backup to Schneider and should provide good value for the next two years.
Three Years Remaining
F Taylor Hall ($6MM, UFA)
D Andy Greene ($5MM, UFA)
Two players heading in opposite directions of their career, but both are valuable to the franchise. Hall, despite coming off a down year (almost all Devils had down years), has two 25-goal seasons to his resume and still had 20 goals last year. The 25-year-old wing is one of the team’s top scorers and many believe that the team’s success will ride on his play. With three years left on his deal, the Devils again have time to decide whether he is worth a big payday down the road. Greene, a 34-year-old aging defenseman, is also a defensive-first player and has always been. As the team focuses its future attention on their defense, Greene playing time may drop over the next few years.
Four Or More Years Remaining
G Cory Schneider ($6MM through 2021-22)
F Travis Zajac ($5.75MM through 2020-21)
F Kyle Palmieri ($4.65MM through 2020-21)
Schneider is locked up for the longest on this team and until last year, that deal looked like a great one. The 31-year-old goaltender has been golden throughout most of his career, but the team’s poor defensive play finally got to Schneider, who struggled in his 60 games played. His 2.82 GAA and .908 save percentages were career lows and the team believes he will bounce back even though the team has done very little to improve their defense this offseason.
To make matters worse, the team also lost Zajac to injury this offseason. The veteran center will be out for four to six months after he had surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle, which he sustained during offseason training. While he may be back late in the season, the injury will force others like Henrique to step up and take a larger role this season. Zajac, who has spent his entire career in New Jersey, had 14 goals and 31 assists last year. But the fact that he’ll be 36 when is contract ends, this contract is likely to be one they want to get out of at some point in the future.
Palmieri, like Hall, is the present day future of the Devils. The 26-year-old wing has scored 56 goals in the past two seasons and has been one of their most dominant players. At $4.65MM, that’s pretty good value for the forward.
F Mike Cammalleri ($1.67MM through 2020-21)
F Devante Smith-Pelly ($175K in 2017-18, $225K in 2018-19)
F Ilya Kovalchuk (not a buyout, but a recapture penalty will cost the team $250K through 2024-25 after retiring three years into a 15-year, $100MM deal)
Retained Salary Transactions
Still To Sign
Best Value: Palmieri
Worst Value: Clowe
The Devils look to be in a better situation after a solid offseason. Striking the lottery and getting Hischier is a huge stroke of luck, one the organization needs after several years of struggles. The team’s defense also got a boost recently when they signed Butcher from the college ranks. Both prospects should provide long-term value, and the team is not clogged up with too many expensive contracts. Most general managers would be happy to pay Schneider just $6MM over the next five years. What the team needs to do is continue to improve and develop their prospects. Players like Pamieri, Hall, Henrique and Severson must continue to improve and take their games up a notch this season. But with a low cap number and some young prospects on the horizon, the Devils should continue to improve over the next few years.
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