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No Hold Out After All: Eric Gelinas Signed One Year, $900k Deal Over Weekend

The last restricted free agent to sign with the New Jersey Devils, Eric Gelinas, signed with the Devils over the weekend. This post has thoughts on the deal, why he wasn't likely to hold out anyway, and what he has to do to secure a roster spot.

Eric Gelinas is signed.  Only the matter of Ryan Carter is left.
Eric Gelinas is signed. Only the matter of Ryan Carter is left.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Today began training camp for the New Jersey Devils.  Rookies reported for physicals.  Media guide photos were taken. The team had fans come in to pick up their season tickets during the afternoon.  And a man named Eric Gelinas was at the arena.   The latter was the big news - no, Mike Komisarek getting a PTO is not big news - of the day.  Tom Gulitti confirmed at Fire & Ice this morning that Gelinas signed a one-way contract for one year worth $900,000 over the weekend.  This is a raise from his entry level contract per CapGeek, so I can't imagine he's unhappy about that.   I can't imagine anyone would be displeased with Gelinas getting a one year deal for less than a million dollars.  And this ensures that no one on the Devils will hold out this year.

Of course, I didn't think Gelinas would hold out at all.  As a qualified restricted free agent, the Devils owned his rights.  As he has played all of one season in the NHL, he was not eligible for arbitration.  As he would like to keep playing the NHL, Europe or sitting out was never an option.   Gelinas had no leverage.  So I stand by my initial reaction on Twitter: "Hey look the guy with no leverage to hold out didn't actually hold out."

I'm more intrigued about the contract itself.  If we take Lou's stance from last season, where he did not want to put players on one-way deals down in the minors, then it's pretty safe to say Gelinas will be with New Jersey this season.  Even if Lou changes his mind on that, it's still pretty safe to say that Gelinas will be with New Jersey since he's now eligible for waivers.  Only Jon Merrill can go down without clearing and that goes away in 28 games.  So the question is not whether Gelinas stays on the roster, it's all about what he does with the opportunities he gets.

The Devils have six other defenders signed, so it's not a guarantee he plays every night.  Yes, he's got plenty going for him.  He's a very smooth skater.   The Truth is the truth.  I know he had a lovely 5-on-4 points-per-60-minutes rate last season according to Hockey Analysis. But a defenseman's got to be able to handle opposing players one-on-one, communicate well with his partner to get into position, and make the right decisions, especially when it comes to being physical.  Gelinas struggled with all of that, particularly in the 2014 portion of the 2013-14 season.  I'm skeptical that the Devils will have a 5-on-4 shooting percentage of 15% when he's on the ice again in 2014-15, so I'm not totally sold he's going to repeat last year's production.  He could do it, but even then, he's got to be a better defender.  If only to avoid getting seventh-defenseman treatment of limited usage and minutes in games.  Without improvement on the back end, he won't get as many opportunities as he could to get better and help the team.  That will factor into his next deal.  So he's got to work for to stay in the lineup as opposed to just being on the roster.

I think he knows that, based on this short interview with reporters on the Devils' Youtube channel:

Past 3:20, he knows that it's a busy camp.  I doubt professional try outs (PTOs) Tomas Kaberle, Komisarek, and Renat Mamashev will win spots.  The first two are past the point of being all that useful in my opinion and the other has been a KHL-only defenseman who last played on this continent in 2000-01 with Moose Jaw of the WHL.  Given the Devils are loaded with 14 signed forwards and Ryan Carter, there's not a lot of room for extras.   Still, the defensemen on PTOs have to be respected from Gelinas' point of view to prepare for camp.  A good start will help him work towards trying to get a longer and/or more lucrative contract next summer.

Whether that happens or not, this leaves only one loose end in terms of contracts: Carter.  I suspect room will be made for him in some way or form.  I doubt he's attending camp without a contract just for the fun of it; I think he's expecting one soon.  We'll see.

Camp has now officially begun.  Veterans will report on Thursday. Preseason hockey begins next week against Our Hated Rivals.  Welcome to the 2014-15 campaign.   Gelinas is signed.  What do you think of the deal?  Do you think he'll make the most of this show-me contract?  What do you think he needs to do to get there?  Please leave your answers in the comments.  Thank you for reading.