A couple of weeks back, I wrote an article about what the New Jersey Devils should potentially do about bringing back pending RFA Blake Coleman. As a 26 year-old, he will be UFA eligible after next season when he is 27, so the debate is there about how long to make his deal, and what that should be worth. He has had only one full season under his belt despite his age, and he only netted 25 points as someone who really was suited for a checking line and to log heavy minutes playing in the defensive end. However, in this role he was quite valuable, and is the team’s best forward on the penalty kill.
In the comments, I noted that generally fans seem to agree that Coleman is definitely a player worth bringing back, and for a decent term length so that at least some of his UFA years are eaten up. I suggested somewhere around 3 years for $3 million total, $1 mil per year. Most people in the comments seem to think he is worth more, potentially up to $2 million per year for a similar term. It is hard to argue with his production in the defensive zone, on the penalty kill, and as a high character guy, so it will be interesting to see what kind of agreement he can come to with Ray Shero to remain here.
Today, let’s look at the one other pending RFA that I think would be interesting to delve into, and once again also because of his age. While not currently 26 like Coleman is, Stefan Noesen is only one year younger at 25, and will turn 26 in February. And since he only has one season under his belt of more than 32 games, he will need to wait until turning 27 to become UFA eligible. That will be in two offseasons from now, in 2020. So if NJ signs him to a two-year deal this offseason, he will become a UFA upon expiration of such a deal.
The question for Noesen is similar to the one for Coleman. Is it worth exploring a longer term deal for Stefan in order to eat up some of his UFA years despite not producing big numbers in his career? Or, should Shero play it conservative and only offer a shorter term deal so that the team is not on the hook long term if Noesen flounders on the ice?
I think the answer for Noesen might not be as clear in terms of contract length, although I think the idea of bringing him back is pretty rock solid. Noesen’s point totals were extremely similar to Coleman’s this year. Whereas Coleman had 25 points with 13 goals, Noesen had 27 points with the same number of goals, 13. So he had only 2 more assists. He did play in 72 games which was less than Blake, but nonetheless 72 games is fairly close to a full season, and he had plenty of ice time.
The question is then, was he producing defensively and in other ways much like Coleman does? Blake is a stellar penalty killer and is very defensively-sound. How about Noesen? Let’s look at some of the same numbers I showcased for Coleman, with info coming from Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is among forwards with at least 200 minutes played. 16 forwards qualify.
Well, the similarities are still prevalent here, it’s not just with their point totals. Both players had fairly solid possession stats, with both of them producing positive relative Corsi percentages. Noesen’s possession numbers are even better than Coleman’s, with the best CF amongst all forwards on the team with at least 200 minutes played, sitting well above 50% at 51.62%. That is an excellent number for a player on a team that has struggled badly in possession since John Hynes arrived. His relative Corsi was only behind Taylor Hall’s, and that speaks to how good of a possession player he was. Noesen was clearly driving play in a good way, especially because he was not confined to only a few linemates. Noesen played at least 100 minutes with six other forwards: Coleman, Travis Zajac, Miles Wood, Brian Gibbons, Pavel Zacha and Brian Boyle. And yet despite playing with a bunch of different guys, he was still not only a positive possession player, but one of the best forwards on the team in that regard. That speaks to his ability to control play despite who is out on the ice with him.
If you notice from that link too, he played the most with Coleman of all players, so it makes sense why their numbers are more similar. Noesen was also used a significant amount defensively like Coleman, with an offensive zone start percentage just under 40%. Only two forwards had a lower percentage than him in that regard. So while Coleman was relied on even more defensively, Noesen was utilized in that regard as well. And given his possession numbers, he clearly did well with defensive zone starts. It can be very easy to be a net negative in possession when you usually start pinned down in your own end of the ice, but Noesen was clearly more than capable of tilting the ice back in NJ’s favor.
To this end, considering the similarities in their games, you might see both Coleman and Noesen receive similar deals this offseason, and I would think that is possible. Noesen’s case is interesting in a different way because he is a year younger, however. Whereas Coleman you could not offer him a 1 year deal and still retain his rights as a RFA, with Noesen you can. Noesen you can offer a 1 year deal in the value range of $1-1.5 million and still have him as a RFA next offseason.
The question then is does that make sense? Obviously a two-year deal might make the least sense because it eats up the last two years of him as an RFA and does not delve into his UFA years at all. Therefore, I think you either see a one-year, bridge deal with Noesen that keeps him as a RFA, or a three-year deal like I mentioned with Coleman, as this gives New Jersey a year of control over his UFA years. To me, either would be appropriate. With longer term you might be able to give him less money per year which is great for the team, but you are also taking more risk by locking him up long term. The problem with locking both Noesen and Coleman up long term is that you’re committing to two defensive, character forwards who do not produce a whole lot offensively. On a team that needs secondary scoring, that’s a fair amount of commitment to minimal secondary scoring. I get their other benefits, and they do help prevent goals against which is also valuable, but the thought needs to be out there.
Given the team’s lack of secondary scoring, and that both Coleman and Noesen do not really provide it in a major way, then maybe going a one-year deal with Noesen could work for the Devils as it provides a little more flexibility after next season. You give Coleman the three-year deal, and try Noesen out on the one-year bridge, and reevaluate after next season. I could definitely get on board with that. However, if Shero ends up giving both three-year deals, that would be great in shoring up the team’s defensive capabilities among the forwards, although Shero then really needs to find some secondary scoring, especially on the bottom 6. You’re not getting that from these guys unless something clicks.
What do you think? Would you go three years for Noesen like Coleman? Or, does the one year bridge deal that keeps him an RFA next offseason make more sense in Noesen’s case? What kind of money are you thinking on either of the deals? You might want to offer a little more in the one year deal, but maybe not too much more given his RFA status currently. Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.