New Jersey Devils players met with the media on Saturday before taking off for the summer. There were plenty of questions, especially for guys like Jesper Bratt as uncertainty surrounds him this offseason. The pending RFA is among the most valuable pieces on the roster and he’s a high priority for GM Tom Fitzgerald, but there are questions about whether the two sides can agree on terms, especially as the Devils also prioritize extending Timo Meier.
When asked for his thoughts on contract negotiations, James Nichols of The Fourth Period writes, “I have full confidence in my agent and Tom (Fitzgerald) that we’ll get (my contract) done.” He adds, “We’ll get it done. I’ll see you guys for the next couple of years to come.” He said that this is a ride he wants to be a part of and would like to stick with the team. He noted he sees the group that they have will keep getting better and the playoff experience they got this year will only help. The team has a great core group that can reach new heights in the future.
Nichols reported back in November that the two sides had already begun talking about a new deal. Those talks remained ongoing but slowed as the playoffs got underway. Speculation is that it’s been a frustrating negotiation for both sides at times and the target annual average salary for Fitzgerald and the Devils appears to be in and around $8 million. His playoff performance might not help his cause as he only posted one goal and six points in 12 games.
Bratt was believed to be (and might still be) a big part of the Devils’ future, but there will be a limit to what the team is willing to give him. The Devils have made it very clear Bratt is not going far away from where Jack Hughes is at and that might be pushing it based on the other things the team wants to do.
What Else is On Devils’ To-Do List?
There were a few other players that commented on their futures in New Jersey. Ryan Graves also needs a new deal and said, “I know there’s a business side of things. We’ll see what happens.” Meanwhile, goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood said he’s open to a return but you also “want to go where the opportunity is.”
Shayna Goldman of The Athletic wrote that the Devils might have to decide between Meier and Bratt. She explains:
Neither top-six winger really popped on the scoresheet despite his efforts this postseason, but Meier was one of the primary shot and scoring chance contributors on the team while Bratt was making offense with his puck movement. The goal is likely to extend both Bratt and Meier long term, then balance the books around them (if not, it then shifts to replacing whoever departs because the team still needs that high-end skill that both bring).
If the Devils aren’t as confident as Bratt is, or the negotiations get stressful, it should be intriguing to see if they explore the idea of a trade.
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