And now there is one. Adam Larsson is the only restricted free agent on the New Jersey Devils without a new deal. During the scrimmage, Tom Gulitti tweeted out that the team did sign Seth Helgeson to a two-year contract. It's a two-way deal for the first year, where he'll make a salary at a rate of $575,000 when he's in the NHL and $75,000 when he's in the AHL. In the second year, it's a one-way deal worth $600,000. So he'll get the security in pay in 2016-17 regardless of where he plays.
Among all of the restricted free agents to be signed, Helgeson would be the most minor. Gelinas and Larsson will definitely play in the NHL next season. Matteau, who is now waiver eligible, will most likely play in the NHL next season. Helgeson has some work to do to make it back into the NHL. He was high enough on the depth chart to play in 22 games when defenders went down to injury last season. Now, there's Vojtech Mozik and Raman Hrabarenka potentially in front of him. That's assuming the Devils don't sign another defender for depth purposes in Albany or in New Jersey. In the near future, Steve Santini and Josh Jacobs will be playing pro hockey. Helgeson's got to show he belongs and fast if he wants to be more than just a call-up.
He'll turn 25 in October, so it's questionable if he can really improve. Helgeson is very much a defense-first and defense-only player. He got some PK time last season and he wasn't an atrocity on skates during it. He's got a big body and he knows how to use it. He'll provide next to no offense otherwise and he's not particularly mobile. In an earlier era, this would be fine. Helgeson would have a reasonable shot at a #7 position. In today's NHL, these sort of defensemen are fading away to a point. The Devils' way for years has been to pair someone more skilled on the puck with someone who can be punishing and focus on defensive positioning. Given what we know about puck possession and how to drive it, it's more advantageous to have the entire blueline to contribute in both ends. I don't think this type of defenseman will go away entirely, but they're not going to be as desirable.
Training camp will be crucial for the Devils in terms of establishing what John Hynes and his staff wants to do. For Helgeson, it'll be crucial to establish himself as someone who can contribute for the Devils. Again, he's got competition in Albany as a potential call-up player. It won't be long before he'll have more competition. I'm glad he's at least secured a one-way salary for that second year. Hopefully for his sake, it won't be his last NHL deal.
Again, like Matteau, the deal is so cheap, there can be no complaints about it. Two-way in the first year will save the team a little money, and the one-way deal is good for Helgeson. What do you think of Helgeson's chances? Is this the season where he needs to show he belongs? Do you think he can? What do you expect from him in 2015-16? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Helgeson in the comments. Thank you for reading.