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There’s a good number of storylines following the New Jersey Devils into the 2017-2018 season. Their trifecta of rookies making the final roster- Hischier, Butcher, Bratt, the revamped offense, and whether Cory Schneider will have a rebound season, headline the subplots most Devils fans will follow closely. While it might not seem like much, forward Adam Henrique is entering the fifth season of the six-year extension he signed back in 2013. His contract expires in 2019, when he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.
So, what makes this season important?
Henrique can sign an extension with the Devils after July 1st, 2018, so he can’t afford to have anything less than a stellar 2017-2018 campaign. Not only will it give his camp more leverage to negotiate, but it could make Devils management more eager to secure one of their core forwards long term. I bring this up now because of Shero’s track record at signing his team’s free agents, dating back to his time in Pittsburgh. He retained the services of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, Jordan Staal (despite trading him afterwards), and Chris Kunitz- all integral pieces to Pittsburgh’s modern-era championship teams.
Simply put, Shero isn’t afraid to secure his top players long term, which is a managerial facet we all know his predecessor Lou Lamoriello sorely lacked. Unlike Lamoriello, however, Shero has deep-pocketed owners behind him who are committed to turning the organization around. Considering the direction this team appears to be heading, I can see Henrique more than willing to sign an extension as soon as next summer.
Going into the season, Henrique has been relegated to third line playing time in five-on-five situations. It hasn’t stopped him from getting on the scoresheet, as he’s notched a goal and two points going into tonight’s matchup. While it’s highly unlikely Henrique maintains this point-per-game pace the whole year, he’s expected to remain a key offensive contributor.
In six seasons, Henrique’s tallied at least 40 points in five of them (scoring at least 20 goals in three), over which he’s averaged 19.6 goals per year. Having said that, he’s only topped 50 points twice, and hasn’t surpassed his career-high of 51 set in his rookie season. If Henrique fails to break this point threshold, I can’t see Shero offering an AAV of higher than $5 million in any extension he’d propose to Henrique’s camp. However, between ably anchoring the third line and his frequent special teams playing time, he is in a completely conducive environment to have his best season yet.
While we’re unlikely to see Henrique finish in the 80-point range, he’s more than capable of reaching at least 60. In terms of contract leverage, his camp could have enough reason to seek upwards of a $6 million AAV in his next contract. Like he’s done with Pittsburgh’s core players, this could prompt Shero to lock Henrique up early. On the flip side, Shero could just as easily want to wait until next season before negotiating, and determine whether a 60-point performance by Henrique is just a one-time instance. Nonetheless, Henrique can’t undermine the importance this season holds for him. Not only could Henrique secure himself another long-term contract, but any offensive output this team can get will go a long way.