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After a franchise record breaking season, it is inevitable changes are coming to the NJ Devils roster.
As the season wrapped up, many were questioning what the Devils were going to do with defensemen Damon Severson, the longest tenured Devil. With young, defensive talent in Simon Nemec and Luke Hughes on the way, many assumed he would be leaving the Devils on July 1 as a free agent. Instead, on June 9 the Devils completed a sign-and-trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, sending Severson to his new team with a 8-year with an AAV $6.25M contract.
The next item on the to-do list for the Devils focused on two of their stars – forwards Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier. Bratt and Meier are two players many would like to see in a Devils’ uniform for many years to come. Both were going into this summer as restricted free agents (RFA), giving them one year until they became unrestricted free agents (UFA).
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Many fans know the struggles Bratt and the Devils have had when trying to negotiate a contract. As Bratt is beginning to enter his prime, fans were hoping this would not be the case for his newest contract. A few weeks into the offseason, specifically on June 15, Bratt agreed to an 8-year deal with an AAV of $7.875M.
General Manager Tom Fitzgerald had made it known to the public Meier would like an extension here. Meier joined the Devils back in February in a trade with the San Jose Sharks. He quickly became a fan favorite as the star was exactly what the Devils were looking for. On June 28, Meier and the Devils agreed to a eight-year, $70.4 million extension.
Courtesy of AP Photo/Adam Hunger
Fan favorite, forward Erik Haula, also signed a 3-year extension with the Devils. Haula has been a very productive middle-six forward for the Devils. He has struggled to find a team that sees his talent, as he has been on seven different teams since the 2016-2017 season. At the end of the season he made it clear this is the team he wanted to be with, claiming this is his family.
Fitzgerald pulled off a trade with the Calgary Flames that brought forward Tyler Toffoli to Jersey. Forward Yegor Sharangovich and the 80th overall draft pick in this year's draft were sent to Calgary. Toffoli is coming off a strong 73 point season and will be slotted into the Devil's top six.
Another question mark lies with defender Ryan Graves. As more defensive talent is on the way, it is a toss up if Graves will be resigned or walk on July 1, as he is an unrestricted free agent. If Graves ends up walking, GM Fitzgerald should look to sign a veteran defender as some of his most promising defenders will be rookies.
Courtesy of AP Photo/Noah K. Murray
It’s no secret the Devils goalie situation for the past few seasons have been part of their struggles. Goalie Viteck Vanecek came in this season and blew through the expectations of everyone in the regular season. Vanecek had some struggles come the playoffs, but Akira Schmid, who played most of the season in the AHL or on the bench backing up Vanecek, came in and stood on his head. Vanecek’s struggles in the playoffs raised some concerns in fans, some were left wondering if the Devils should be looking at the goalie market.
Goalie Mackenzie Blackwood was supposed to be the future of goaltending in Jersey but has not had an easy time due to different injuries over the past few years. He is currently an RFA but it is assumed the Devils will not give him a qualifying offer this season, meaning he will become a free agent on July 1.
The rest of the RFAs on the Devils is a lengthy list: forward Michael McLeod, forward Jesper Boqvist, forward Nathan Bastian and defender Kevin Bahl.
The players who can walk on July 1 include forward Tomas Tatar, forward Miles Wood, defender Ryan Graves and goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Bernier will be let go as he has been out with an injury for two full seasons. It will be interesting to see what happens with the rest of the UFAs.
During the NHL draft, the Devils selected five different times: forward Lenni Hameenaho with pick 58, forward Cam Squires with pick 122, defender Chase Cheslock with pick 154, forward Cole Brown with pick 164 and defender Daniil Karpovich with pick 186.
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The 2022-23 Devils team will always be remembered and loved by the fans – the team that went on a 13-game win streak, had success in the playoffs for the first time in a decade and got the attention of the league.