Today at 5 PM ET was the deadline for arbitration-eligible restricted free agents to file for a salary arbitration hearing. Out of the New Jersey Devils’ RFAs, four were eligible: Nick Lappin, Kevin Rooney, Blake Coleman, and Stefan Noesen. As reported in this article by Chris Ryan at NJ.com, Coleman and Noesen both filed while Rooney and Lappin did not. That’s right, the Texas Twosome took the two-step towards a hearing.
There is no cause for alarm. It is common for RFAs around the league to file for arbitration, have a date for a hearing set, and never get to the actual hearing. As CapFriendly tweeted out earlier today, 30 players filed last year but only one verdict was issued. What typically happens is that the hearing date provides an incentive for negotiations to be completed by that date. Once there is a new contract, the hearing goes away - and all is good. It has been years since a New Jersey Devil actually made it to the arbitration hearing. I do not expect Coleman or Noesen to be any different, especially since the Devils have ample amounts of cap space from doing a whole lot of not much so far in this offseason.
Since I’m last with this news, allow me to dwell on both Texan forwards and how they performed last season.
Noesen is 25, he plays right wing, and he is coming off a one-year, $660,000 contract as per CapFriendly. According to NHL.com, Noesen appeared in 72 games and finished eighth on the team in scoring with 13 goals and 14 assists. With 124 shots on net, Noesen shot at 10.2% - which is a downgrade from his 12.7% in his rookie season season. Noesen averaged 13:17 per game; about 96% of his ice time last season was at even strength. Noesen’s highlight was arguably this cracker of a goal in the playoffs in Game 3, the Devils’ sole win over Tampa Bay:
Noesen is one of those players that in an earlier era, one would look at the basic stats and wonder what his value is. Fortunately, we have some more advanced stats that show that the winger has game. Noesen primarily played in even strength situations - and things went well for the Devils when he was on the ice. According to Natural Stat Trick, Noesen’s Corsi For% was the highest among all Devils forwards and third among all Devils skaters (minimum 100 minutes in 5-on-5 play, 25 players) at 51.6%. The other on-ice for-percentages are even better when Noesen was out there. The team’s Shots For% with Noesen was a great 54.1%, the team’s Scoring Chance For% was also solid at 53.6%, the team’s High Danger Scoring Chance For% was a superb 58.2%. This all came with the Devils scoring 38 goals and allowing just 29 when Noesen was on the ice in 5-on-5 play - which only boosts the notion that he’s good at what he does. In other words, the run of play went in the right way when Noesen was out there.
When looking at the relative (Noesen on the ice compared to when he’s not) stats at Natural Stat Trick, it’s clearer as to what’s been happening. The Devils’ relative stats by them are only slightly positive, while the rates against them - what the opposition does - are significantly negative. For example: the Devils’ relative shots against rate is a -4.71 per 60 minutes. That means when Noesen is on the ice, the opposition collectively takes much fewer shots than they did when he was on the bench. In total, the other team’s offense drops while Noesen and his teammates chip in some offense. We know Noesen is not a significant producer of points, but helping keeping the other team down is a way to contribute. That’s what he does. In light of that, I’m surprised he has not been given more time on the penalty kill.
I understand it’s a lot of 5-on-5 numbers to take in but they all sum up to the fact that Noesen was a Good Player last season. He is not going to be your top-six winger (except maybe in emergencies). He is not going to be a consistent attacker. But if you need a match-up guy or someone to take on mid-range to bottom-six opponents, then he has done more than a good enough job last season to confirm that he can be that kind of player. You would not necessarily know it from the points or the shots or the ice time, but Noesen has his uses on the team and the Devils should keep him around for a bit.
Given that he just completed his second NHL season and he is coming off a contract that paid him not much over the NHL minimum, I do not think he will get an excessive contract. He’ll get a deserved raise and hopefully more than just a one-year term to stay in the NHL.
Per CapFriendly, the 26-year old left winger Blake Coleman is also coming off a one-year contract worth $660,000. I would say he is more “known” than Noesen because of Coleman’s specialty on the penalty kill. Coleman is a ferocious forechecker in shorthanded situations. He is not only able to assist and make zone exits, but he continually charges forward to help take precious seconds off the clock by keeping the opponents back. This was known in January when I profiled him as a shorthanded attacking dynamo. That continued through the remainder of the 2017-18 season as Coleman finished second in the entire NHL in PK shots on net with 23 as per Natural Stat Trick. (Michael Grabner was first with 24, by the way.)
Coleman’s overall numbers are similar to Noesen’s, only with more penalty minutes (50 to 36) and, of course, special teams play. According to NHL.com, Coleman finished twelfth on the team in points with 13 goals and 12 assists. Coleman took 146 shots so he finished the season with a shooting percentage of 8.9%. Coleman averaged 14:24 per game, with the highest total (169:18) shorthanded ice time among forwards on the team with a per-game average of 2:09. Natural Stat Trick does note that while Coleman took 16 penalties in 5-on-5 play, he drew 17 so there is evidence of him being a pest. Coleman did also get hot in terms of scoring towards the end of last season, with this one-handed backhander beauty being the aesthetic apex of his 13 goals:
There is not as much evidence of him being a under-the-radar 5-on-5 helper like Noesen. Check out the 5-on-5 numbers at Natural Stat Trick. Coleman’s Corsi For% was 49.2%, which is not only below the break-even mark of 50% but good for ninth on the team. (Aside: The Devils were not good as a team in this stat.) However, other for-percentages were on the right side of 50% when Coleman was on the ice: the team’s Shots For% (51.19%), the team’s Scoring Chances For% (50.8%), the team’s High Danger Scoring Chances For% (58.7%!), and even the Goals For% (50.7%). These do not jump off the page like Noesen’s, whose numbers were great across the board, but they’re good values for the minutes that Coleman plays. The relative rate stats also show that Coleman’s contributions on the ice keep the opposition from attacking more so than the Devils attacking themselves. With the exception of high danger scoring chances, the Devils’ rates went down when Coleman took to the ice - and the opposition’s rates went down even further. Again, this is not at all bad. Coleman has not hurt the team in 5-on-5 play; his contribution is not as impactful.
But on the PK, well, it gets better. When Coleman steps on the ice for the Devils’ PK, the opposition’s rate stats go down while the Devils’ own rates go up according to Natural Stat Trick. Given that these are for penalty killing situations, it does not take much for the shorthanded team to have a positive relative rate. But recall that Coleman nearly led the whole National Hockey League in shots on net while on a PK and he was usually on the first PK unit. That the team sees that kind of an effect when Coleman comes on for a PK shift shows how good he was at it. In terms of straight-up on-ice rate stats at Natural Stat Trick, that Brian Gibbons and Coleman both hover around 50 shots against per-60 minutes is a really good mark for these special defensive situations. Both ranked in the top 100 in the whole NHL out of 358 skaters who played at least 50 PK minutes last season per Natural Stat Trick. Throw in the hype-amplifying shorthanded forechecking and you’ve got a specialist that does a decent job at even strength in a bottom-six role. And others have noticed as Coleman was named as part of the USA Hockey roster at the 2018 World Championships and played in ten games.
Like Noesen, Coleman does not have a lot of experience and did not get paid a whole last year. I cannot imagine it would be costly in both years and to keep him either. He’ll get a deserved raise and fans at the Rock should continue to marvel when he’s shielding a cleared puck in the opposition’s corner against one to four players or chasing up ice for a potential shorthanded scoring opportunity.
Again, there is really nothing to worry about with Coleman and Noesen filing for arbitration. The only time you should start worrying is if either (or both) get to their hearing date and actually have the hearing. But that will likely happen towards the end of this month. That is plenty of time for general manager Ray Shero to get with their people and get something done. If nothing else, that is the main purpose of filing for arbitration.
In any case, what do you think of today’s news? What did you think of Noesen and Coleman last season? What would you re-sign them for if you are Ray Shero? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this news in the comments. Thank you for reading.