After another disappointing season, the New Jersey Devils began their wrap-up today with the first half of the team speaking to the media for exit interviews. The Devils’ Amanda Stein had a chance to speak to many members of the Devils to gather injury updates and plans for the summer. One somewhat surprising note was the lingering injury issues that defenseman Dougie Hamilton had been dealing with in the second half of the season. Hamilton had initially been injured when he took a puck to the face in a January 2nd game against the Washington Capitals, causing him to require surgery and miss nearly two months. The defenseman was able to return on February 24th and finish out the regular season, but was clearly not the same player he was before the injury.
According to Stein, Hamilton said that he had never really felt quite the same after returning from the injury, which could have contributed to his dip in play (link). He also mentioned to the Devils’ Sam Kasan that he had actually broken his toe in the game prior to his jaw injury, perhaps also contributing to his second-half slump (link). As Stein cautions, the broken toe was only “one of” Hamilton’s other ailments in addition to his jaw, not the only other ailment (link). In 30 games prior to the injury, Hamilton had seven goals and 13 assists, which fell to just two goals and eight assists in 32 games after his return to the lineup.
- From one Devils cornerstone to another, Jack Hughes indicated to Stein that his recovery from his latest injury has been going really well, although he has not been back on the ice yet (link). Hughes suffered a season-ending knee injury after a hit from Oliver Wahlstrom on April 3rd when the Devils took on the New York Islanders, his second major injury of the year, after a shoulder injury caused him to miss a roughly six weeks in October and November. Despite the time missed, the Devil’s young star turned in an exceptional breakout season, putting up 26 goals and 30 assists in 49 games. Keeping the 2019 first-overall pick healthy will be a critical factor in New Jersey taking the next step in their build.
- Continuing on injuries, an unfortunate key story of the Devils’ 2021-22 season, Miles Wood shared with Stein that he was shut down after just three games this season after the hip injury that had kept him out until March 27th, wasn’t recovering as fast as he had expected after each game (link). With the Devils out of the playoff race in early April, it seemed to make more sense for the Devils to shut the veteran winger down and allow him to completely work through his injury and be able to start fresh for 2022-23. Speaking of next season, Wood is set to become an RFA this summer after the expiration of his four-year, $11MM contract and though the Devils have control of him, where Wood plays next season, and what his next contract looks like, could be a particularly interesting storyline to follow this offseason.
- The final injury update from today’s Devils interviews came from goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who had season-ending hip surgery on January 3rd. Bernier told Stein that he is hoping to be ready for the start of training camp in September, however he is not happy with where he currently is in terms of his recovery and rehab (link). On a positive note, Bernier did mention he had resumed skating last week, albeit without equipment. Hip surgery is always concerning for a goaltender, but from the Devils perspective, the organization now has a full offseason to address their goaltending situation, including Bernier’s rehab. Regardless of the goaltender’s recovery or New Jersey’s moves this offseason, Bernier still has another year at $4.125MM with the Devils next season.
- Looking to some positive news for New Jersey this spring, several players confirmed to Stein that they plan to represent their countries at the upcoming World Championships. Forward and team captain Nico Hischier (link) and defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler (link) both plan to represent Switzerland in the tournament, with forward Tomas Tatar (link) representing Slovakia, and defenseman Damon Severson (link) representing Canada.