It was not long before the New Jersey Devils made their second signing of the day. Ray Shero went out and signed someone intended for the bottom six, or the third and fourth lines, among the forwards. That someone is veteran center, Vernon Fiddler. The contract is for one year at $1.25 million.
Fiddler to NJD. 1 yr, $1.25 mil— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 1, 2016
With Tyler Kennedy, Stephen Gionta, Bobby Farnham, Tuomo Ruutu, and Jordin Tootoo all being unrestricted free agents, not all of them are expected to return. Therefore, a few signings like this one would be necessary. Fiddler has been a mainstay of a team’s bottom six throughout his thirteen-year NHL career. According to his profile at Hockey-Reference, Fiddler has been a consistent 11-13 minute forward who produces somewhere between twenty and thirty points per season. Even last season, the 36-year old put up twelve goals, ten assists, and 98 shots on net in 82 games while averaging less than twelve minutes per night. That’s not at all bad production for someone in that role. What’s more is that he really has been a center, as he finished third in total faceoffs taken with Dallas last year and won over half of his draws.
From an advanced stats standpoint, Fiddler isn’t bad. According to his page at Puckalytics - which I really like, go check out that easy-to-follow format, Fiddler has not been a great possession player from a CF% standpoint. However, his SA/60 has been well below thirty for the last three seasons in a row and he was only just under 50% SF% in his most recent season. The Devils don’t necessarily need play drivers among the bottom six, just players to not get wrecked in that department. Those numbers suggest Fiddler can do at least that. On top of that, Fiddler’s been a regular part of Dallas’ penalty kill. He can take that role right away in New Jersey.
While I can understand a seven-figure contract for what amounts to be a fourth liner and occasional third line player seems a bit much. But I’m fine with it. I’d rather see $1.25 million committed to someone who’s been good in that role rather than hand $800,000 to someone who can just handle it and hope to be decent on most nights. What’s more is that if someone who is playoff-bound wants a veteran center by next February, then the Devils should be able to make a deal happen. I like this signing, especially if it means Gionta isn’t coming back since Fiddler would take his spot in the lineup.
What do you think of this signing? Do you think the Devils getting Fiddler was a good idea or not? What do you think of the contract? Was there anything else about Fiddler that is worth pointing out, either in favor or against the player? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Fiddler in the comments. Thank you for reading.