New Jersey Devils fans have been closely monitoring Damon Severson’s contract situation for several months now, including several times on this site. On the morning of September 11, they received the news they had hoped to hear via a series of tweets from TSN’s Bob McKenzie:
RFA D Damon Severson on the verge of getting a deal done with NJD.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) September 11, 2017
Severson's new deal with NJD is expected to be a six-year term with an AAV just north of $4M.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) September 11, 2017
Year by year for Severson: $2.5M, $3M, $4.675M, $4.675M, $5.050M, $5.1M. Also, typo on tweet with AAV, it's $4.166.7M.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) September 11, 2017
Reading through those in sequence, it’s natural to get progressively more excited about the implications of this deal for New Jersey. Severson set a career high in points last year with 31 and was one of the bright spots on a team that hungered for possession, especially from the defensive end. This is a good deal for both team and player, as it gives him a chance to prove himself through his prime while the team is not handcuffed by the terms.
In terms of the overall status of the Devils defense, Chris Ryan of NJ.com offers up some possible defensive pairings and pinpoints one of the most interesting parts of this deal. This deal is the exact one that Ray Shero gave to Adam Larsson one year before trading him to Edmonton for Taylor Hall. This type of seems unlikely to happen again. While Hall is a dynamic offensive player and that trade should be made every time, it left a crater on the Devils defense that has only now started to be addressed via trades and free agency. It is still a position where the Devils lack depth and retaining Severson will be an important block to build around as he continues to improve his game on both ends of the ice.
The core of the Devils defense going forward will be young and more oriented towards retaining puck possession and creating offensive chances. This is the logic behind the protection of John Moore over Jon Merrill to Vegas and a big reason New Jersey pursued Will Butcher. Andy Greene is a stalwart and Ben Lovejoy has been a problem, but beyond those two, everyone on the big club’s defense is less than 27 years old. They have plenty of time to improve and learn from the coaching staff as the Devils continue the rebuild.
In the case of Severson specifically, John took a deep dive into his offensive and defensive metrics a few months ago and the results were quite positive. He had been called on to fill the void left by Larsson and he has taken his first steps in doing so. For a very affordable price, a long-term for meshing, and a speedier and constantly improving offense, Severson will get every opportunity he needs to make this contract well worth the money.
This, in turn, brings up the last implication of the deal. Larsson was a valuable trade commodity because of a similar contract. A sub-$5 million AAV for 6 years is something that every team desires in a promising defenseman and in the worst-case scenario that the Devils do not significantly improve, Severson will become one of those desirable trade chips. He wouldn’t fetch a prize like Hall, but if needed (and we all hope that it is not), he could be moved for some strong pieces and/or draft picks.
What do you think of the contract and where it leaves the Devils defense? What do you hope to see from Severson going forward? Let us know in the comments.