If you’re a Devils fans, I guarantee you’ve heard one phrase often during the last offseason: “Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier need to be paid.” This statement was used by many to rationalize general manager Ray Shero’s decision of not spending significant cash over the offseason. Many may agree with this rationale and many may disagree. This article isn’t going to argue for either point. Rather, it’s going to explain why while being hesitant to spend may be smart but not fully necessary.
The argument of not spending money due to the impending contract extensions for both Hall and Hischier makes sense. The forwards combined are in line to account for at least $14 million in cap space when re-signed. But there are many factors that make this doable while being able to spend money elsewhere. In order to find these factors, you just simply had to look at the current state of the Devils contracts. In the chart below are some notable pending unrestricted and restricted free agents at the end of this year and the cap relief that’ll be supplied.
|Name||Status||Cap Relief||Name||Status||Cap Relief|
|Marcus Johansson||UFA||$4,583,333||Keith Kinkaid||UFA||$1,250,000|
|Brian Boyle||UFA||$2,550,000||Pavel Zacha||RFA||$894,167|
|Stefan Noesen||RFA||$1,750,000||Will Butcher||RFA||$950,000|
|Ben Lovejoy||UFA||$2,666,667||Mirco Mueller||RFA||$850,000|
** All salary cap statistics courtesy of capfriendly.com **
If you add up the cash coming off the books when the above contracts expire, plus other contracts not charted above; along with the almost $14 million the Devils currently have available currently, at least another $20-25 million will be tacked onto available funds. Yes, some of this money will go to re-signing pending restricted free-agents and possibly bringing back a couple of pending unrestricted free-agents. However, the Devils have the third most cap space in the NHL. When you couple the abundance of current cap space and that several larger cap hits coming off the books next year, they are poised to have a ridiculous abundance of cash, even after re-signing their own players.
Another aspect adding to the increase of money the Devils are going to have is the always increasing cap ceiling. Below is a chart that shows the change in the NHL salary cap each season since 2005 and as you can see the annual increase has been hefty.
This continuous increase of cap space not only supplies teams with more room, but it also has another positive impact. A rising cap ceiling makes old deals look better. A couple years from now good contracts like Damon Severson’s $4,166 mil AAV will look even more spectacular, and bad deals such as Travis Zajac’s $5,750 mil AAV will look like less of a bad deal. This is all thanks to an increasing cap ceiling — which will rise to $83 mil for 2019-20 — that redefines what a good and bad deal looks like.
As you can see due to the numerous cap space the Devils possess, the amount of money coming off the books next year, and the steady increase of the cap ceiling each year, they’ll have money to spend on their own players (Hall, Hischier, Butcher, etc.) and to improve the team in free agency.
Now, you may be asking yourself why this article is being written a third of the way into the season. As Devils fans, we are all paying close attention to the struggles the team has been experiencing this season. A casual fan can see the holes this team possesses. And one way to fix them is by spending some money.
There are great options to fix the ailing Devils during this season. One of them is trading for pending free agents. Artemi Panarin and Jake Gardiner would be two great examples of pending UFAs. Each skater would improve the Devils tremendously and quickly. Sure the price of getting any pending free agent via trade is pricier than just waiting till after the season, but there are two huge advantages. The first is the immediate impact the individuals would have on a team desperately needing reinforcements. The second advantage is being able to negotiate a contract while holding the player’s rights. Each of these advantages are enabled by the pending cap space the Devils have.
I am not advocating for reckless spending from Shero. But I am advocating for the improvement of a team that’s certainly on the right track. To continue to get better, the Devils must be a bit more aggressive. And that’s something that has to happen this offseason, if not sooner.