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After extending a PTO to Jimmy Hayes on Wednesday, the Devils continued adding to their right wing depth Friday by signing Drew Stafford to a one-year, one-way contract worth $800k. He’s coming off a down year, where he tallied 8 goals and 21 points in 58 games between the Winnipeg Jets and Boston Bruins.
Stafford’s signing will help add some much needed depth on the right side, where the team currently lacks scoring punch behind Kyle Palmieri.
Over the last three seasons, Stafford has scored at a decent clip as a middle-six forward, averaging 39 points per 82 games including 18 goals per 82. Although those numbers seem decent enough, his production has steadily declined over the last three seasons and his shot output was down from 2.39 shots on goal a game in 2015-16 to 1.87 last season.
Stafford’s five-on-five numbers are not all that impressive, either. For his career, he’s a 47.9 percent possession player. Over the last three seasons, he’s at 46.9 percent possession. He’s also given up more scoring chances than he’s created over that timespan. While his possession numbers may not be great, he’s averaged 1.61 points per 60 minutes over the last three seasons, which is decent enough for someone who will likely be playing on the second or third line.
The Devils certainly have a need at right wing, and Stafford is a seasoned veteran who signed on a very team-friendly deal. While his acquisition may seem similar to Lee Stempniak or P.A. Parenteau, it wouldn’t be fair to compare him to those two. Stafford’s underlying numbers are nowhere near as good as Parenteau and Stempniak’s were upon joining New Jersey. Stafford has his shortcomings defensively, which can’t be said of Stempniak, and will be something John Hynes will have to keep in mind when deploying Stafford on the ice.
Despite the concerns, there are reasons to be hopeful about Stafford. His five-on-five numbers may not be great, but he’s scored at a decent pace. His shooting percentage was 3.5 percent below his career average this past season and he did play a bit better upon arriving in Boston. New Jersey does have a need for a right winger and instead of playing a young forward that isn’t ready for NHL time right off the bat, Stafford will allow for some of the Devils younger forwards to develop at the right pace.
For the Devils, there’s essentially zero risk in signing this deal and at only one-year, $800k, and Stafford could be a nice asset come the trade deadline if he’s able to score at his per 82 game pace. With an improved depth chart on the right side, the Devils will have plenty of competition come training camp with Jimmy Hayes, Blake Speers, and Stefan Noesen vying for full-time gigs. If they can get Stafford to produce closer to his averages, he’ll be another nice cheap signing by Ray Shero.