The New Jersey Devils have a ton of both restricted and unrestricted free agents and with the amount of cap space they have, they have plenty of work to do before the July 1 deadline.
Their most notable unrestricted free agent is goaltender Keith Kinkaid. He played for a new contract this year and went 8-13-3 with a 2.64 goals against average, a .916 save percentage, and a single shutout. His career numbers? His overall record is 23-27-8 with a 2.68 GAA, .912 save percentage, and three career shutouts. He has spent his entire NHL career with the Devils, dating back to the 2012-13 season, where he backed up Martin Brodeur and plays the same role now behind Cory Schneider. But this decision comes down to what both sides want and if they can come to some sort of agreement. If Kinkaid decides that he wants to continue to play the backup role in New Jersey, I’m sure the Devils would love to resign him but the Devils do have goaltenders in the system, namely Scott Wedgewood (who had some NHL time last year with Schneider’s injury), who are going to take on that role soon enough. If Kinkaid decides that he wants to be a starting goaltender (and why wouldn’t he?), he might test free agency and find a better fit elsewhere. There are several teams in need of goaltenders (I’m looking at you, Dallas) so Kinkaid might play somewhere other than New Jersey next season.
There is a long list of restricted free agents and defenseman Damon Severson is at the very top. The Devils have to resign him as soon as possible. He had a solid year, albeit posting a team-worst -31 +/- rating. His 3-year, $2,850,000 entry-level contract came to an end and the Devils don’t have a whole lot of depth in the system when it comes to defensemen. Severson had a decent offensive year, tallying three goals and 28 assists (led defensemen in assists by 18). He is one of their best d-men; he’s young and has a lot to learn but with the organization trading Adam Larsson last year, the Devils need a player like Severson on the team. This is a no-brainer.
I’d also like to see the Devils resign a few other restricted free agents, namely Joseph Blandisi, Beau Bennett, Stefan Noesen, and Scott Wedgewood. Blandisi was on a 3-year, $2,365,000 entry-level contract. He tallied just three goals and six assists in 27 games this year; he got off to a slow start and was sent back down to Albany (AHL) to “overcook” and he looked much better when he came back up. The organization does have an abundance of centermen but Blandisi is an important piece for the future, and he looked good with both Bennett and Adam Henrique.
Which brings us to Beau Bennett. He signed a 1-year, $750K contract last summer and also had a pretty decent season. He has really good puck possession numbers and that’s something the Devils could really use going forward. He had eight goals and 11 assists in 65 games, and was relatively healthy this year. His biggest problem is injuries but he played 65 games for the first time in his NHL career (which is a huge improvement) and if he can stay healthy next year, he’s an asset the Devils can really use. I would hope for at least another 1-year contract, or a 2-year contract if he wants to stay in Jersey, which he just might.
Stefan Noesen, buddies with fellow (former) rookie Pavel Zacha, could also use a new contract. The Devils claimed him off of waivers from the Anaheim Ducks, and he got off to a fast start (two goals in two games) but he tallied six goals (eight points) overall this season (32 games). He hit a slump but got better as the season went on and he has chemistry with the team, on and off the ice. He was on a 1-year, $600K contract with the Ducks and will have to be signed to a new contract, possibly another short-term one.
Scott Wedgewood suffered a shoulder injury at the beginning of the season that sidelined him the entire regular season and the first half of the postseason for Albany (AHL). He did dress for the final two games, which is a promising sign for the future. He played four games for the Devils last season (when Schneider was sidelined with an injury), going 2-1-1 with a 1.24 GAA and a .957 save %. This isn’t a huge sample size but it’s a promising one. If Kinkaid decides to test free agency and ultimately does not return to New Jersey, Wedgewood will serve as a backup and he looks ready to play at the NHL level. Either he or Kinkaid will have to be exposed in the upcoming Vegas expansion draft but with the abundance of options available at goaltender, they will remain with the organization.
There are a host of other RFAs, all of them spent a significant amount of time in Albany this year. The Devils will have a lot of work to do this summer between resigning players, signing free agents from other teams, signing (and trading) Ilya Kovalchuk, and participating in the upcoming entry-level and expansion drafts. The Devils do get to pick first overall in the entry-level draft on June 23rd, and there’s a post about it here: THE NEW JERSEY DEVILS WIN THE 2017 DRAFT LOTTERY
There’s also a post about Kovalchuk here: The Return of Ilya Kovalchuk? but expect there to be plenty more during the rest of the offseason about everything the Devils are up to. There’s a complete offseason preview here: New Jersey Devils: Offseason Expectations and it will be a busy one.