Entering the later evening hours and after I personally had already left my post and gone out to dinner, the New Jersey Devils decided to make another quick splash into the free agent pool, signing former Ottawa center Jim O'Brien. This was a depth signing by the team. Jim was a former first round pick by the Senators in the 2007 Draft, taken 29th overall. The stats on his career so far are listed here from Hockey-Reference:
As you can see, he has not played much in the NHL. Over the course of three seasons, he tallied 63 games and only 12 points. Those are far from stunning numbers. He then left the team after the 2012-13 season, spending time in the AHL and KHL. Considering a lot of his time has been spent in the minors, here are his Elite Prospects stats, which show everything:
He has not necessarily killed it in the AHL either, but he has not been terrible. These numbers dictate that if he is to make the roster out of training camp this year, it will most likely be in Stephen Gionta's normal position as the fourth line center. Tom Gulitti essentially said as much, saying this:
Shero said he sees O'Brien competing for 4th line C job. Played some for John Hynes in U.S. national team program.— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) July 2, 2015
Furthermore, his contract suggests that he was brought in to at best compete for a fourth line spot. It is a one year, two-way contract. He is also making league minimum, as per Gulitti:
NHL salary on O'Brien's contract is $575,000 (league minimum)— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) July 2, 2015
To delve a little further, Hockey Analysis has his possession stats for his time in Ottawa, and it is not terrible at all. He was a positive Fenwick player for his entire career in Ottawa, despite not being sheltered with too many offensive zone faceoffs. This certainly backs up the notion that he can come into New Jersey and compete for a starting gig on the fourth line. He will not be a possession black hole and sink the team.
This is a zero risk signing by Ray Shero and the Devils. O'Brien comes in on a league minimum salary and will be competing with Gionta for fourth line minutes. There is nothing wrong with giving an incumbent starter some competition to make sure that he still on his game, and that is what this signing seems like. And when the season begins, it will be good to have an extra center in the AHL as well in case of injuries. O'Brien may have been a bust in Ottawa, but he was a former first round talent who shined in the USNTDP, so we can certainly hope that John Hynes is able to resurrect his career. Hynes coached O'Brien during his USNTDP years, so perhaps John believes he can make him succeed once again. While this is far from a flashy move, it is a nice depth move that really cannot be faulted in my opinion given the fact that zero risk is attributed to it.
Now that you have read up on him, what are your thoughts about the Jim O'Brien signing? What about it excites you, if anything? Now that Free Agent Frenzy is over for the Devils, are you happy with the low-key day, or were you hoping for a bigger splash? What do you hope gets done in between now and training camp? Please leave your comments in the section below, and thanks for reading.
Side Note: In-House Signings
Also during the day, the Devils brought back two players in the system, Blake Coleman and Paul Thompson. For those interested in their stats, Coleman's are here and Thompson's are here. Coleman is coming off of a solid college career at Miami of Ohio, where he just produced 37 points in 37 games as a senior and assistant captain. Thompson joined Albany last year as a 26 year old and played well, to the tune of 33 goals and 55 total points in 73 games played.