While we wait for Adam Larsson to get a new contract, Stefan Matteau became the latest restricted free agent from the New Jersey Devils to agree to a new deal. As reported earlier today by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, Matteau signed a two-year, one-way deal worth $1.225 million. That's an average annual value of $612,500 for each season. Renaud Lavoie tweeted this evening that he'll get $575,000 in the first year and $650,000. Per General Fanager, it's initially looks like a downgrade in the NHL salary he earned on his entry level contract. However, this contract means he'll make six-figures no matter where he is for the next two seasons. It's good to have that security.
You should expect him to be in New Jersey for those two seasons. Because Matteau played in 17 games in the NHL in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the clock started on his waiver eligibility. He's now eligible for waivers. He would have to pass them to go down to the AHL. Gulitti speculated that the one-way deal may provide some coverage, I don't think he'd pass. It's true Matteau's numbers don't exactly jump off the page. He's still a 21-year old forward who's made enough appearances in the NHL to think he could stick around. I think someone would take him if he was available for very little cost. Therefore, that means is that he's likely only going to upstate New York if the Devils have a road game in Buffalo. You might as well pencil him into New Jersey's roster now.
The big question is where he would fit in. Last season, Matteau got a call up for seven games and looked decent next to Travis Zajac and Mike Cammalleri. He skated well, threw his body around, wasn't particularly dreadful, he only took two penalties (one was coincidental), and even scored a goal (in the same game as the penalties). Then again, he was replacing Jordin Tootoo on that unit at the time. Looking better than Tootoo wasn't and isn't a difficult task. Moreover, I'd really doubt he'd be in the top six outside of necessity. Consider his career stats, per Elite Prospects.
Matteau may have played better than his production suggests, but he's never topped 30 points in Albany. I wouldn't expect him to top 30 in New Jersey or anything like that in 2015-16. He hasn't been a significant scorer even prior to being drafted. This isn't to say he's a total scrub. He's definitely got the physical attributes for the NHL and he's not slow. It's just that there's no suggestion that there's a scorer burgeoning within Matteau that's just waiting to break out. So if not that, then what else can he provide to the team beyond hits and energy? Just as importantly, what else can he learn to provide to the team? Those are the questions that will be asked in training camp and preseason. That, injuries, and the play of others will determine how he'll be slotted into the lineup. Right now, I'd say start him on the fourth line - which is the caliber of his payment - and see what happens.
As far as the contract goes, of course it's a good one. While I can't say I speak for the entire Devils fanbase, I struggle to think that there would be anyone would not like this contract. It's cheap, it's short, and it's entirely appropriate for someone with only 24 appearances in the NHL. The Devils have reached the cap floor with this deal; something they'll soar past when Larsson gets his new deal. As Mike wrote earlier this week, it's a quiet offseason. The only remaining RFA's to sign are Larsson and Seth Helgeson. In Gulitti's article on the Matteau signing, Helgeson's should be done soon. After that, it'll be even quieter until training camp gets closer. There might be a try-out or two, but that's really it.
In the meantime, what do you think about Matteau's immediate future? Will he stick around in the NHL lineup? What sort of player do you think he'll become? Will he earn this contract? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Matteau and his new contract in the comments. Thank you for reading.