Well, this wasn’t unexpected.
The New Jersey Devils announced today that they are buying out both Michael Cammalleri’s and Devante Smith-Pelly’s contracts, and both players are being placed on unconditional waivers.
Other buyouts across the league: Ryan Murphy and Lance Bouma (CAL), Jimmy Hayes (BOS), Jussi Jokinen (FLA), and Mark Stuart (WPG).
Neither Cammalleri’s nor Smith-Pelly’s contract buy-outs were unsurprising and I really like this move for the Devils. Cammy was a fan favorite and wore the “A” on his jersey for the team but he’s injury-prone and hasn’t been a consistent player on the ice. He does have potential to get better next season but that’s a huge what-if situation. He had 31 points in 61 games played this season and was a healthy scratch for a few games for the first time ever with the Devils; he’s never played a complete NHL season (he came close in the 2005-06, 2006-07 seasons when he played 80 and 81 games respectively). He’s played for four different NHL teams now and will play for a fifth. He turned 35 this month.
Cammalleri signed a five-year, $25 million contract in July of 2014 and had a no-trade clause in place. He had two more years to go until the contract expired.
Smith-Pelly hasn’t spent as much time in New Jersey as Cammy has. He’s played two years with the team since his trade from Montréal and he had just nine points in 61 games played this year. He was also a healthy scratch and missed the end of the season with an injury. He’s played for three different NHL teams now.
Last summer, he signed a two-year, $2.6 million contract by the Devils after his previous contract (two-year, $1.6 million with the Ducks) expired. He also did not receive a qualifying offer from the Devils last summer but they were able to renegotiate a new contract.
So with both buyouts, the Devils now have the most money to spend in the NHL, with about $27 million in cap space ($27,680,832 to be exact, according to CapFriendly). Carolina has the next most at about $25.5 million. While I definitely don’t think the Devils will spend all of it (why would they?), I would expect them to be very active during free agency and I would hope they’d emphasize quality of quantity.
Yes, this means that New Jersey is probably the favorite to land coveted defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. I have no problem with the Devils signing Shattenkirk; I think he’d help tremendously. I just haven’t been overly impressed with his defensive play? Yes, he chips in occasionally offensively but I’m more concerned about his defense. But more on him later (if the Devils sign him).
The Devils have taken an important step forward in their quest to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. They’re still in rebuild mode so we don’t know how many free agents who are willing to sign with a team that (don’t kill me) might not make the playoffs this season either. I know, I’m sorry. But they’re taking steps forward and that’s the important thing. It should be a very busy offseason.