After the New Jersey Devils traded for Taylor Hall, the team clearly needed to sign defensemen to fill in their blueline. Even before moving Adam Larsson, it was arguable the team needed a defenseman to solidify the second pairing. The Devils did sign a defenseman today. He even has a right-handed shot. It’s veteran and former Penguin, Ben Lovejoy. And he’s not coming at a terribly cheap cost.
Lovejoy 3 yrs to NJD, $2.666 aav.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 1, 2016
Note: The Devils’ official website confirms the signing with a breakdown of the contract. $2.5 million for this coming season, $2.75 million for each of the following two seasons.
I’m not a terribly big fan of Ben Lovejoy or this contract. The 32-year old spent last season with Pittsburgh, appearing in 66 games and playing an average of 18:52 per night according to NHL.com. While he was a regular in the postseason, that average ice time dipped to 17:45 per game. The ice time alone means he’s not going to step in to replace Larsson. That would be one thing. The other thing is what Lovejoy has done on the ice. According to Puckalytics, the good news is that he’s been a positive possession player in 5-on-5 play. He was at 51.3% last season with Pittsburgh. However, that may have been a function of who he played with as Lovejoy’s SA/60 last season was 29.4, the third highest among their defenders. And his CF% rate was the third lowest among Pittsburgh’s defensemen. That’s not terribly encouraging. What also isn’t encouraging is that Lovejoy doesn’t add much offense per his counting stats at NHL.com. While he’s averaged over a shot per game, he’s only chipped in a few points. Offense may not be his game, but it doesn’t immediately appear that he’s a particularly good defender either.
I would be more comfortable with the cost - which is more than what John Moore is getting - if the term wasn’t three years. If this was only one or even two years, then I would be more fine with it. I know the market for right-handed defensemen was thin and unimpressive. I also knew the Devils needed to sign defensemen. But I would’ve preferred Ray Shero to have kept David Schlemko - who just signed for four years with San Jose for a smaller average accrued value (I like the amount, but I think four years is a bit much) - and look elsewhere. Alas, it is what it is.
That’s my quick opinion on the Lovejoy signing. We’ll get to see him in the red and black for some time now. I want to know what you think. Do you like the signing or not? What do you think of Lovejoy as a defenseman? I’m sure we’ll do a deeper dive into his numbers later in the summer, but is there something I’ve overlooked that could change one’s opinion on him one way or another? Please leave your thoughts about Lovejoy and this contract in the comments.