Editor’s Note: The following article is based on pure speculation and the opinions of the author. The following content does not reflect the opinions of the entire Devils Army Blog staff.
I’ve never been a big fan of free agent or trade speculation but with the New Jersey Devils having the second-most cap space ($36 million) going into the offseason, it’s hard to refrain from doing so. While most articles on this topic would be centered around the Devils improving their situation up front, general manager Ray Shero did say that adding to his defense was among the tasks on his summer’s to-do list. Assuming one of Shero’s approaches is by dipping in the free agent pool, one player I can see him pursuing is Dallas Stars defenseman (and former Pittsburgh Penguin) Alex Goligoski.
Goligoski broke into the league with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, where he spent his first two and a half seasons before being dealt to the Dallas Stars. There’s definitely some familiarity between Goligoski and Shero, who isn’t afraid of turning to his former team’s roots as we’ve seen in the acquisitions of Tyler Kennedy, Bobby Farnham, and Dave Warsofsky. In 82 games this year, Goligoski had five goals and 37 points, which was the second-highest among Stars defensemen. He’s missed only three games in the last three seasons, during which he averaged roughly .49 points per game. He’s had seven seasons with 20+ assists and six years where he reached 30+ points. At 30-years of age, Goligoski has plenty of years left, and is coming off his second-highest point totals in a season. When taking all these factors into consideration, I can see Goligoski seeking a multiyear deal along with a hefty pay raise from his 2015-2016 salary of $4.8 million. He would be a steal if he signed a four to six-year deal with a cap hit in the $5-5.5 million range. Being one of the top defensemen available this summer, he’ll certainly receive larger more lucrative offers that could make him one of the highest-paid defensemen in the league.
Even if the Devils were to overpay for Goligoski’s services, it could wind up being a worthwhile signing for a player that would make an immediate impact. His experience alone would bring a new element that the Devil’s current defensive core lacks. Next to Andy Greene (641 games played), Goligoski would become the second-most tenured defenseman with 562 games under his belt going into next season. Outside of those two, only John Moore (303) has appeared in more than 300 career contests out of the entire Devils blue line. Averaging 23:50 of ice time per game, Goligoski led the whole Dallas Stars team in that category, which exceeded Andy Greene’s team-high average with the Devils of 22:57. Greene and Goligoski were neck-in-neck with blocked shots with both players averaging 1.9 per game. Greene led New Jersey in this category, while Goligoski averaged the second-most with Dallas. Goligoski’s 127 shots this season equated to 1.55 shots per game, which is far more than any Devils defenseman had. It’s also worth noting how his 37 points almost doubled Severson’s team-leading 21 with New Jersey.
One of Goligoski’s most appealing attributes is his general consistency over the past five years. He hasn’t played fewer than 70 games a season over that span, and as prevously mentioned, only missed three games in the last four seasons. For a team whose progress was stifled by injuries in 2015-2016, it would be like a breath of fresh air to acquire a healthy point producing player to rely on throughout the entire regular season. His offensive production remained relatively steady over that time too with his point-per-game rate no lower than .40, which is more than acceptable offensive output for a defenseman. Goligoski’s consistency is prevalent in the postseason as well, where he’s averaged .61 points per game. Despite only appearing in 34 career playoff contests, Goligoski’s numbers break down to seven goals and 21 points. He led Stars defensemen in scoring during their 2016 postseason run, where he registered four goals and seven points, and averaged the second-most ice time with 23:14. Goligoski also attained the majority of his points (four goals, 31 points) at even strength, which is another offensive category the Devils sorely need to improve.
Goligoski will be one of (if not the highest) sought after defensemen on the unrestricted free agent market this summer. With relatively slim pickings amongst the forward free agent pool and the Devils sure to have plenty of left over cap space when they re-sign all their restricted free agents, pursuing a player like Goligoski could not only provide the supplemental boost in depth the Devils defense needs, but potentially aid them with their salary cap situation in helping them reach the league minimum. He would add much needed experience on a young Devils blue line, which would relieve some of the pressure off team captain Andy Greene while providing another source of offensive defense, where no Devils defenseman has excelled in over the past few years.