The New Jersey Devils have signed almost all of their remaining restricted free agents, with the notable exception at this point being their most important one in Damon Severson. Severson is someone who I spoke about briefly in a past article, but I’d like to look a bit more in depth today at possibilities for his contract.
Just a few short years ago, the Devils defensive prospect pool was seen as one of the team’s biggest strengths, with youngsters such as Severson, Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, Alex Urbom, and others in the fold. Only 2 out of the group have panned out, with 1 being exchanged for Taylor Hall, and the jury still being out on Steven Santini, who will be suiting up for his second season this year. Damon Severson is the only one of the group who has to this point earned a full time role and stayed put in New Jersey. The Devils need him to be signed and productive on the ice, but the question is which signing route do they go?
Option #1: Short Term Contract (1-2 Years)
This option would wind up seeing Sevs still be a restricted free agent at the end of its term, which could wind up being a good option should the team be worried that he has already become the player he will be. This would allow them to dedicate less cap space to Severson should they be feeling that he will be passed on the depth chart within a few years; I know this is HIGHLY unlikely, but we do not know what management and the coaching staff thinks of each and every player.
If this is the route the team chooses to go, I don’t see the value of the contract exceeding 3 million per season. This could also be a way for the team to say that they don’t think he has earned the big bucks yet and would be a way for Severson to continue to prove himself; the downside to this is that if Damon continues to improve, the next time his contract is up, he would be due for a huge raise that would wind up giving the team less cap to spend elsewhere to improve the team.
Option #2: Long-Term Lockup (6+ Years)
The Devils have done this kind of contract before, most notably and recently with Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson. The benefit of this route is keeping Damon locked in at a reasonable cost as he continues to hopefully improve to be a true top pairing defender; the argument could certainly be made that he has already reached that point in his development, though his opponents would say that he needs to shore up defensively to be a true #1 or #2 for New Jersey.
No matter what the opinion may be, again this move would be cost effective for the Devils in the long run, provided that Damon doesn’t regress, which I firmly believe he won’t. If this is the route they go, I could see him getting anywhere from 4 million to 5 million per season, and anywhere from 6-8 years. Jersey is fairly thin on quality defenders at the moment, and with Severson being one of their best and youngest players, this route would ensure that there’s no ill will down the line when he’s due for another contract.
If I were in charge of the Devils, I pay Severson long-term, both for what he is now and for what his potential could be. He led our defense with 31 points, while not being a defensive train-wreck like his next closest defender John Moore was with 22 points. He is already a top pairing player in my eyes, and while his defending could improve, honestly couldn’t the same be said about everyone on the back end from last season?
To further my argument I’m going to
steal borrow some information from CJ and his Twitter account; from the two most recent images he posted (which for some reason I’m unable to link here) Severson was our best defender in terms of both preventing opposing zone entries and controlling the puck when we entered the offensive zone. I shudder to think of how much worse this team could have been last year without him; and if we had finished worse in the standings, we wouldn’t have won the Draft Lottery!
Short and simple: pay the man, and pay him now.
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts on Damon Severson and his contract; do you think he is a true top pairing defender at this point in his career? Do you offer him a short-term or long-term contract for where he’s at right now? Will this be the year he establishes himself as a force to be reckoned with in New Jersey? Leave any and all comments below and thank you as always for reading!