Entering the third and final season of his contract, defenseman John Moore is coming off a modest career season where he tallied 12 goals and 22 points. I wrote an article earlier this summer on how the New Jersey Devils may have an unrealized gem in the 26-year old blue liner. Going into the coming season, Moore’s played 366 NHL games, during which he’s totaled 25 goals and 81 points. 16 of those 25 goals and half of his point totals came over the last two seasons, which isn’t a coincidence. Ray Shero not only made an underrated signing that’s beginning to pay dividends, but also offered Moore a prime opportunity to establish himself as an NHL regular that he’s since embraced.
After last season, Moore was being perceived by some as a potential offensive outlet, having posted back-to-back career-highs in goals and points. Granted 12 goals isn’t much for high-scoring defensemen (19 other blue liners tallied as many or more than 12 goals in 2016-2017), it’s a big deal for the Devils, who have only had three defensemen score more than ten goals in the last 13 seasons. It’s no secret the Devils defense has been one of the league’s worst in recent years. Between trading Adam Larsson, banking on plundered prospects like Jon Merrill, Eric Gelinas, Seth Helgeson, and having a virtually empty cupboard of genuine defensive prospects, it’s caused a steep drop-off in viable depth outside of Andy Greene and Damon Severson. Still in his prime years with plenty of room to grow, John Moore enters the season as a player whose continual improvement since coming to New Jersey, is pivotal to reducing that rift in talent on the backend.
Considering Moore is entering the final season of his contract, it’s all the more reason for the 26-year old to continue building his game. Not only will he surely seek a raise from the $1.667 million AAV of his current contract, but he’ll seek long term assurance in his next deal; whether it’s with New Jersey or another team. Even if the Devils enter the trade deadline as sellers, they’ll inevitably ship Moore to a contender. This all will obviously be easier to achieve if Moore continues building on his offensive production.
A lot of skeptics deterred by Moore’s defensive game will attribute last season’s performance to his 11.8 shot percentage (also a career-high). While this may be true, it’s worth pointing out Moore registered at least 100 shots in back-to-back seasons (another big deal for the Devils, who have been one of the lowest-shooting teams in the league). Not only is that a sign of consistency, but Moore also attained last season’s totals despite missing 19 contests after being sidelined by injury. With that being said, considering Moore’s career shooting percentage is 5.1%, it’d be unfair to expect him to score 12 goals again, but he does have the ability to generate shots that many of the Devils defensemen don’t have. It’s preventing them where Moore has trouble.
Over the last two seasons, Moore has consistently been in the red with his shot totals, although he did see a slight improvement in 16-17. The Devils have also fared better with Moore off the ice rather than on the ice in his two seasons in NJ with him finishing with a negative relative possession in each of those seasons. So while Moore may give the Devils something offensively, there is definitely room for improvement on the defensive end.
If he maintains 18-20 minutes of ice time this season, Moore would benefit from a better defense partner, having spent most of last season on a pairing with Ben Lovejoy. Perhaps pairing him with a more defensively responsible player like Steve Santini or Will Butcher to offset Moore’s volatile play in his own zone, could enable Moore to have greater offensive freedom on the ice. Considering how Moore is the third-most tenured defenseman on the Devils, pairing him with one of the younger defensemen slated to make the roster I just mentioned could benefit their development.