As training camp draws closer, the New Jersey Devils continue to clean up some final housekeeping and are now one Miles Wood away from signing all of their current free agents after this announcement:
Steven Santini has re-signed with New Jersey for three years, $4.25 million total which gives him an AAV of $1.416 million. Santini played 36 games in New Jersey last season, accumulating two goals and eight assists for ten points (all career highs or tied for career highs.) However, Santini was frequently scratched despite having some nights where he played over 20 minutes and could not be a mainstay in the lineup upon the return of Mirco Mueller and stability of Ben Lovejoy.
This article by Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic breaks down the extreme numbers that Santini put up in terms of production and possession ($). In short, his numbers were...not great but this was a result of his extreme usage in a situation that he seemed unprepared for as a young, developing defenseman. He was routinely used in the defensive zone against most opponent’s top lines and he struggled in such situations, but this new contract is a show of faith in his potential. With the acquisition of Vatanen as the clear top defender, Santini can be more sheltered in his usage and naturally slots in on the main roster, especially considering that this contract is one-way (he will be paid the same at both the AHL and NHL level, making him an unattractive candidate for demotion) . He would have to clear waivers to be sent back to Binghamton as a player on his second contract, which is risky for a young player so he will be given every opportunity to prove he belongs. As it stands, he will join Andy Greene, Sami Vatanen, Will Butcher, Mirco Mueller, Ben Lovejoy and Damon Severson as the 7th defenseman to start, but the departure of John Moore should open the door for him to audition for a bigger role.
This is a more than reasonable price for his current role on the team and the hope is that it will look like a bargain in a few years as he continues to gain NHL experience. Hopefully he can continue to bring this type of physicality as well:
Do you think this contract is fair value? Do you see potential in Steve Santini? What is his potential ceiling? Let us know what you think in the comments.