After Sam Reinhart signed his two-year bridge deal with the Buffalo Sabres earlier today, just four restricted free agents remain unsigned now several days into the preseason. One of those players is Miles Wood, who has been generally overlooked among this group due to the star power of some of the other names sitting out. Bob McKenzie of TSN gave an update on the situation today on Twitter, noting that there has been “virtually no dialogue” of late and that the two sides are not close to a deal. Wood may not have the name recognition of a William Nylander or Shea Theodore, but is still an important player for the New Jersey Devils that they need to get under contract at some point or risk heading into the season without his contribution in the lineup.
Wood, 23, was a big part of the New Jersey breakout last season, scoring 19 goals in 76 games while being an effective checking forward. Though playing fewer than 13 minutes a night, Wood was able to create 170 shots on net and use his speed and size to convert on those opportunities on a regular basis. While the team may not want to hand out a long-term deal on the back of a career year, he certainly looked the part this season and should be looking for a substantial reward.
The lack of previous success or draft pedigree is what makes Wood’s situation different to that of Nylander or Reinhart, and could very well be the sticking point between the two sides. There is little to suggest that he’s on a path to 60-point seasons, but Wood does have leverage as the team’s fourth-leading goal scorer from a year ago. The Devils now expect to compete for the playoffs after such a successful Cinderella run in 2017-18, and Wood knows he is a big part of that. Settling for a short-term deal at this point may not be considered a win for his camp, even if it would get him playing again.
Of course, when you don’t have that long track record of success or a huge draft investment from the team, there is substantial danger to holding out through training camp. For every day Wood misses there will be another opportunity for a younger player to show that he can replace that role effectively this season, and likely at a cheaper cost. There’s only so much you can demand as a fourth-round pick with 137 games under your belt.