- LeBrun also touches on Jack Hughes, whose camp has also had preliminary talks with the New Jersey Devils on an extension. The young forward suffered a dislocated shoulder and will be out indefinitely for the Devils, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less a key part of their future. The first-overall pick from 2019 had 31 points in 56 games last season and appeared to be taking another step forward this time around, with three points in the game and a half he was able to finish. The scribe believes the Devils will try to sign Hughes to a long-term deal, as they did previously with captain Nico Hischier.
Jack Hughes will be out indefinitely after suffering a dislocated shoulder, but that’s actually good news for the New Jersey Devils. The young forward will not require surgery and has begun to rehab the injury. Hughes will be re-evaluated next week, meaning he will still miss a good chunk of time, but there was fear that surgery could take away a huge chunk of the season. He has been moved to injured reserve for the time being, which comes with a minimum of seven days.
Hughes, 20, looked like a wholly different player in his first game of the season, scoring two goals and dominating play whenever he was on the ice. He suffered the shoulder injury in his second match, when Seattle Kraken defenseman Jeremy Lauzon sent him sprawling into the boards.
If he has avoided major injury it’s a huge win for the Devils, who are off to a 2-0 start as they try to show the rest of the Metropolitan Division that the playoffs are not out of the question. One of the youngest teams in the league, New Jersey has just three regulars–Tomas Tatar, P.K. Subban, and Jonathan Bernier–over the age of 30. The latter, Bernier, is also dealing with a lower-body injury and will not dress tonight. The team has recalled Nico Daws from the AHL to serve as backup tonight.
While Vancouver fans are relieved to see Elias Pettersson and Quinn Hughes back in action after they signed new contracts to stay with the team, they’ll have to wait a bit longer to see one of their young core members debut this season. Head coach Travis Green said Friday morning that it’s doubtful Brock Boeser plays in that night’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Boeser has been on the shelf with an undisclosed injury since October 2. He was expected to only miss one week, but that timeline has passed and his status is now day-to-day. In his absence, it appears rookie Vasily Podkolzin will now get a look on the second line with Pettersson and J.T. Miller.
Some other injury notes from around the league:
- New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff notes that defenseman Damon Severson is progressing and could play in New Jersey’s game next Tuesday against the Seattle Kraken. The Devils play their season opener tonight, meaning Severson might only be on the shelf for one game. Severson suffered an undisclosed injury on October 4 and has been listed as day-to-day since then.
- The Montreal Canadiens could see a big free-agent addition make his debut soon. Head coach Dominique Ducharme says that winger Mike Hoffman could be ready for the team’s Tuesday or Thursday night games next week, but he’ll miss Saturday’s tilt against the New York Rangers. That’s about right on time for Hoffman, who was projected to miss four weeks with a lower-body injury suffered in late September.
- With the St. Louis Blues’ season opener looming Saturday in Colorado, they could be without forward David Perron, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jim Thomas. Perron was absent from the Blues’ practice today but was seen at the facility wearing street clothes. Head coach Craig Berube called it a “maintenance day” for Perron, who’s questionable for the game with an undisclosed injury.
Navigating the salary cap is one of the more important tasks for any GM. Teams that can avoid 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 2021-22 season. This will focus more on players who are regulars on 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: $70,019,735 (under the $81.5MM Upper Limit)
Hughes showed some improvement in his second season but isn’t playing at the level that a recent first-overall selection is expected to. Many expect him to take a step forward this year but it’s fair to wonder if that will be enough to get him a long-term deal or whether he’d be better off with a bridge. Nico Hischier’s contract (more on that one later) would be the potential comparable but if Hughes thinks he can hit another level, his camp would be better off going for a short-term second contract. On the bonus front, the ‘A’ portions are certainly attainable ($850K in total) while the ‘B’ ones seem unrealistic for him to get to.
Boqvist, who was sent down to start the season, should earn a limited role before too long. As a result, a short-term second deal is likely. Mercer made the team out of camp but it’s too early to assess whether he’ll be able to hit some bonuses while forecasting his next contract before he plays a game isn’t really doable. There are other forwards (Tyce Thompson and Alexander Holtz) that could play their way onto the roster but they’re candidates to go back and forth which makes it unlikely their respective bonuses are hit.
Smith’s rookie season was an impressive one as he locked down a spot inside New Jersey’s top four on the back end while chipping in offensively. Lots can change over the next two years but assuming he progresses, he’s looking at a significant raise and could be a candidate for a long-term pact that buys out a few UFA years as well. His bonuses are certainly achievable as well.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry-Level
Bratt hasn’t emerged as an impact scorer yet but the speedster has put up at least 30 points in each of his four NHL seasons, including the pandemic-shortened last two years. He eventually settled on a bridge deal just days before the regular season started although he’ll have arbitration eligibility and a $3.3MM qualifying offer (120% of the AAV) working in his favor this time around. He needs to establish himself as a bigger threat if he wants to land a considerably higher price tag than that. Wood is coming off a good season in the goal department with 17 in 55 games and has a $3.5MM qualifier coming his way. That’s on the high side for someone who hasn’t scored 20 yet but they have the wiggle room to afford that raise even if he remains more of a secondary piece. Zacha has slowly improved and quietly led the Devils in scoring last season. He has a $3MM qualifier on the horizon and while he’s basically locked in on the third line with their first-overall picks holding down the top two spots, he can still be an impact piece. A long-term deal in the $4MM range is a realistic scenario here if he’s around the 35-40-point mark again this season.
Subban is no longer the top-pairing player that he was when he signed this contract and durability has been a concern the last few years. He’s more of a role player and his next deal might not even be half of his current rate. He’ll be a candidate to be dealt between now and the trade deadline as long as New Jersey is willing to retain half of the price tag. Jaros is a depth piece, a placeholder for some of their prospects until one of them is ready to come in. Geertsen was a surprising waiver claim but with the role he’s likely to have, it’s unlikely he’ll garner much more than the minimum on his next contract.
Two Years Remaining
G Jonathan Bernier ($4.125MM, UFA)
G Mackenzie Blackwood ($2.8MM, RFA)
D Ryan Graves ($3.167MM, UFA)
F Andreas Johnsson ($3.4MM, UFA)
F Janne Kuokkanen ($1.85MM, RFA)
F Michael McLeod ($975K, RFA)
D Damon Severson ($4.167MM, UFA)
D Jonas Siegenthaler ($1.125MM, RFA)
F Yegor Sharangovich ($2MM, RFA)
F Tomas Tatar ($4.5MM, UFA)
Tatar was one of the more intriguing unrestricted free agents in the 2021 class. His production dipped a bit after two strong seasons with Montreal but what really worked against him was being a healthy scratch for most of their playoff run. That certainly hurt his value although he still managed to land a decent price tag, albeit not at the type of term he was hoping to command. If he can help elevate the production in the top six though, he’ll have a chance to land a similar contract two years from now. Johnsson was acquired as a cap dump from Toronto but didn’t come close to matching the production he had with the Maple Leafs. That contract will be difficult to move unless he rebounds.
Sharangovich had a nice rookie season buoyed by a good half-season in the KHL before the NHL season got underway. As long as he stays in their top six, he should be able to produce enough to warrant a raise on his $2.05MM qualifying offer while he’ll have arbitration rights at that time. Is he a long-term piece for them? They’ll find out over the next two years. Kuokkanen didn’t look out of place in a middle-six role last season, his first taste of regular NHL action. The price tag is a little high given his limited NHL experience but if he even stays on the third line, they’ll get a good return on it. His qualifier is at $1.95MM with arbitration rights in 2023. McLeod, a 2016 first-rounder, has had a slower development path but is now waiver-eligible, helping him secure a spot. He’ll have time to establish himself as a legitimate full-time NHL player and will need to do so if he wants to get more than his $1MM qualifier.
Severson has been miscast in a top-pairing role over the last few years so it will be interesting to see how he fares on the second pairing which is where he’s more suited to be. His contract has been a bargain considering the role and ice time he has played but now in a more optimal spot on the depth chart, he could stand out a bit more which would certainly improve his fortunes heading into free agency in 2023 where he’s already looking at a raise. Graves joins New Jersey after Colorado decided they needed to move him out for expansion considerations and he should add a stabilizing presence on the back end. If he holds down a spot in their top four as expected, he should be looking at a small raise at a minimum on his next deal. Siegenthaler hasn’t had an extended NHL look but should get one over the next couple of years. If he’s more of a depth player than an impact one, he shouldn’t get much more than this on his next contract.
Last season was a tough one for Blackwood as he was thrust into the undisputed starting role with Corey Crawford retiring at the beginning of training camp. A bout with COVID-19 didn’t help things as he struggled upon his return. He is viewed as their long-term starter but has some work to do to earn the big money contract that number one netminders get. Bernier was brought in this summer in the role that Crawford was supposed to fill – serve as a mentor to Blackwood while pushing for playing time. It’s an above-market contract for that role but they have more than enough cap room to pay the extra cost to get the player that the wanted.
Three Years Remaining
No players have expiring contracts following the 2023-24 season.
The Devils, like recent addition Frederik Gauthier, signed Vesey after bringing him to training camp on a professional tryout contract.
Vesey, a 28-year-old Boston native, will suit up for his fifth NHL team in just six NHL seasons. He’s failed to meet expectations since winning the Hobey Baker trophy for the best player in college hockey and signing as a free agent with the New York Rangers prior to the 2016-17 campaign.
The left wing began his career with consistent scoring production, potting 16, 17, and 17 goals in his first three seasons, all with the Rangers. However, a move to Buffalo prior to 2019-20 derailed his production, posting just nine goals and 20 points in 64 games. He scored only 10 points in 50 games in 2020-21, splitting the season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks after being waived mid-season.
Vesey figures to slot into a bottom-six role when in the lineup in New Jersey. He’ll bottle for a spot in the lineup with younger players like Marian Studenic and Jesper Boqvist. In all likelihood, he remains in a depth role as the 13th forward and can be a fine replacement if injuries strike.
With the submission of season-opening rosters due on Monday, many teams should be making more cuts today. We’ll keep track of those moves here.
Columbus Blue Jackets (via team release)
F Tyler Angle (to Cleveland, AHL)
F Josh Dunne (to Cleveland, AHL)
F Brendan Gaunce (to Cleveland, AHL)
F Carson Meyer (to Cleveland, AHL)
F Tristan Mullin (released from PTO, to Cleveland, AHL)
F Justin Scott (released from PTO, to Cleveland, AHL)
F Tyler Sikura (to Cleveland, AHL)
Florida Panthers (via WPLG’s David Dwork)
Minnesota Wild (via team release)
Montreal Canadiens (via TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie)
F Jesse Ylonen (to Laval, AHL)
New Jersey Devils (via team Twitter)
F Joseph Gambardella (to Utica, AHL)
Ottawa Senators (via team Twitter)
Philadelphia Flyers (via team Twitter)
G Felix Sandstrom (to Lehigh Valley, AHL)
Pittsburgh Penguins (via team release)
St. Louis Blues (via team release)
Vancouver Canucks (via team release)
After releasing Mark Jankowski from his PTO earlier today, the New Jersey Devils have ended another tryout this afternoon. Frederik Gauthier has signed a one-year, two-way contract, ending his PTO and officially joining the organization. The deal will carry an NHL salary of $800K, an AHL salary of $175K and comes with a solid minor league guarantee of $200K.
Gauthier, 26, spent last season with the Arizona Coyotes on a one-year, two-way deal as well, but failed to receive a qualifying offer this offseason. That was a familiar decision as he had been cut loose by the Toronto Maple Leafs the summer previous, even after playing in 61 regular season games with the team. In 170 career contests, the big center has recorded just 13 goals and 31 points, a disappointing total even for a player that was always lauded more for his defensive ability than scoring touch.
That defensive ability, or at least the ability the Maple Leafs hoped would develop, is exactly why they made him the 21st overall pick in 2013. He has size too, but Gauthier has never been a physical player, even when he towers over the competition. Instead, he can get by in a fourth-line role just by his defensive awareness, though even that has been a difficult role for him to secure lately. In New Jersey, he should only fill an extra forward/injury call-up spot and could very well find himself on waivers before camp is finished.
The New Jersey Devils didn’t actually end up playing last night due to an electrical issue in the rink, but there was an issue with the roster even before the scoreboard went dark. Mackenzie Blackwood, who was originally scheduled to play the first two periods for the Devils, didn’t hit the ice with the team for warmup. Corey Masisak of The Athletic reported this morning that it was because Blackwood, one of the handful of players who have decided not to be vaccinated, had inconclusive COVID-19 test results. According to Masisak, the team is expecting to know for sure one way or the other on Blackwood’s status by Sunday.
When both Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier were missing from today’s practice, speculation ramped up that it was because he would be a close contact as the other goaltender. That is not the case, as Bernier was taking a maintenance day, not because of anything to do with Blackwood’s status. While testing positive is certainly a possibility for every player in the league, vaccinated or not, the fact that Blackwood has declined means that should he miss regular season action because of a positive case, the Devils could suspend him without pay.
Tonight’s preseason game between the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils won’t take place, per Newsday’s Andrew Gross. A partial power outage at Prudential Center in Newark prevented the game from taking place.
Per Gross, the contest has been cancelled and won’t be made up, ending New Jersey’s preseason prematurely. Their focus now turns to their season opener at home on October 15th against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Islanders, on the other hand, have one exhibition match remaining. They have a tilt scheduled for Saturday against the New York Rangers to be played in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
It’s a tough break for New Jersey, who was expecting to give multiple players just one more audition tonight. The team still has 33 players on their training camp roster, needing to cut ten more before opening night.
Jimmy Vesey, Mark Jankowski, Frederik Gauthier, and Tyler Wotherspoon remain with the Devils on professional tryout contracts. The team will now need to make a snap evaluation on whether to offer contracts to any one of them, if at all.
The team will also need to decide what to do with young forwards Alexander Holtz and Dawson Mercer, who’ve both impressed at camp. They both stand chances of making the team, fighting with other forwards like Marian Studenic and Tyce Thompson for the final spots on the roster.
The Athletic’s Arthur Staple was first to report a possible cancellation.
Oct 4: The Devils have answered the question of where Geertsen fits into the roster, noting that he will play left wing tonight against the Washington Capitals in a preseason game. Geertsen has played forward in the minors for the past year and is now, according to Devils reporter Amanda Stein, comfortable at the position.
Oct 3: Waiver season is in full swing, with dozens of players exposed over the last few days. Today, the New Jersey Devils decided to select one of those players and add him to their organization. Mason Geertsen, who was waived by the New York Rangers has been claimed by New Jersey.
Geertsen, 26, has exactly zero NHL games played in his professional career but adds a level of physicality to the fringe of the Devils roster. Even the team’s press release suggests that his size and the fact that he “likes to play a tough, physical, and gritty game” is the reason the team went after him.
Interestingly enough, the Devils have had several chances to acquire Geertsen in the past but have passed them up. The minor league defenseman–who notably has been playing some forward in the AHL as well–has cleared waivers twice before, including in March of this year, and was an unrestricted free agent in 2019 after failing to receive a qualifying offer from the Colorado Avalanche, the team that drafted him back in 2013.
He ended up signing an AHL contract with the Rangers and spent a year and a half before earning his current two-year, two-way deal. When he did so, New York put him on waivers in order to keep him in the minor leagues and the Devils–and every other team in the league–passed.
They won’t this time, a curious decision given the added depth the Devils have acquired at the position this offseason. Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Graves, and Christian Jaros were brought in this summer, while Jonas Siegenthaler was retained after a deadline trade last season. It’s hard to see where exactly Geertsen fits in, though with Ty Smith’s recent injury there may just be a short-term need for some added depth.
If the Devils put Geertsen back on waivers, the Rangers will have a chance to reclaim him and send him directly to the minor leagues, should they be the only team to put in a claim.