Earlier today, the final loose end from the 2018 Offseason for the New Jersey Devils was tied up. The team announced on their official website this afternoon that they have re-signed Miles Wood to a four year contract worth $11 million. Per the team’s news, Wood will be paid $2.5 million for each of the next three seasons and will be paid $3.5 million for 2021-22, the final season of the deal. Additionally, the Devils stated Wood will join the team in practice on Sunday, which will make him available for the team’s remaining three preseason games.
Since I am late with this being news, let’s answer the deeper question: Is this a good contract? Yes. I think so, at least.
Back in July, I took a guess at what could be Wood’s next contract. The 22-year old put up 19 goals and 13 assists in a 2017-18 campaign where he demonstrated a lot of improvement in his overall game. After looking at some comparable players based on his production and considering that Wood just finished his second full season in the NHL, I came to the conclusion that I would prefer a short term deal where Wood would be paid around $2.5 million on average. Then I saw Tom Wilson’s big, fat, stupid contract and ended the post hoping that Wood would sign for a cap hit worth around $3 million - similar to Andre Burakovsky’s bridge deal. As it turned out, the Devils and Wood agreed to a deal in between those numbers with a $2.75 million cap hit. Therefore I am fine with the amount of money involved.
I am even more fine with the money considering the current landscape of the NHL. According to CapFriendly, 29 players in the NHL have a cap hit between $2.5 million and $3 million for 2018-19. While I’m not going to go through all 28 other players, the only forwards on that list that may be better than Wood right now are Teuvo Teravainen and (maybe) Ondrej Kase. Brian Boyle of the Devils also made this list, which furthers the point of how good the money is for Wood. Wile Boyle is good for his role on a fourth line, Wood’s value is already higher just based on the facts that Wood can score more, Wood is far faster, Wood is more in line with the team’s desire to play fast and attacking hockey, and Wood is young enough to improve (e.g. imagine if he ever gets good enough off the puck to play the plus one in a wedge-plus-one penalty kill set up). Wood’s ice time may be in line with a player like Boyle’s, but Wood is arguably worth much more than that - and his cap hit is the same as Boyle’s. And Wood agreed to this amount of money. Knowing that, I really like the cap hit for the Devils here.
As far as the term is concerned, I am still a little concerned about it being a four-year deal. Wood did show a lot of progress in his second season with the Devils. That he put up 19 goals while averaging less than 13 minutes per game (and 11:30 per game at even strength) is impressive. It also begs the question of whether he can sustain these gains. Do you give Wood a bigger role? If so, who does he displace? Does he need to do more than what he has been doing first? It still remains to be seen whether Wood is on an upward trajectory or if he had one strong season. That being said, the contract will end with Wood being a restricted free agent. He will have arbitration rights, so he can force a deal to be made much earlier than September in 2022. Still, the Devils do not have to risk him going to market or have to sign him to a larger, more lucrative deal in the prime years of his career. So I am fine with the length despite my concerns.
Furthermore, there reason to be hopeful that Wood is on an upward trajectory. Beyond the fact that he’s still just 23 and entering his third season of hockey, there are some strong indications from his 2017-18 that Wood’s future is very bright.
Miles Wood is the final one, all the guy does is shoot from everywhere. With some more ice time and some improved shot quality to go along with his impressive quantity, he could become a great goal scorer very very soon pic.twitter.com/hYa2v5cxgB— Chace McCallum (@CMhockey66) September 10, 2018
CJ re-tweeted this tweet by Chase McCallum a few weeks back, where McCallum identified a number of potential breakout candidates for 2018-19. Wood was one of them. McCallum linked to two visualizations images to support the statement he made for Wood.
The first is comparable players by 5-on-5 offensive score per 82 games. Despite the lack of ice time, he’s nestled in between Mathieu Perreault ($4.125 million cap hit) and Chris Kreider ($4.625 million cap hit) while not being too far behind Hart Trophy candidate Anze Kopitar ($10 million cap hit) and young ace Jack Eichel ($10 million cap hit). For the sake of completeness, Wood’s total game score per game was 2.25 last season - which ranked 103rd out of 520 NHL forwards per Corsica, virtually tied with Michael Frolik ($4.3 million cap hit) and Rickard Rakell ($3.789-ish million cap hit). While this is not to say that Wood is exactly on their levels or will surpass them, but Wood’s contributions last season put him in some serious company with respect to offense. It likely helped Wood’s score that he scored so much while receiving so little ice time; but he really did maximize his minutes. It also helps that Wood is still on a lower cap hit than those six players I brought up.
The second image points to how Wood got those 19 goals. Using a shot chart visualization by Sean Tierney and data from Moneypuck, Wood shot from all over the place - and exceeded the expected goals model by Moneypuck. (Note: Wood was second on the team in this regard for 5-on-5 play and fourth in all situations.) The count of 234 shots does not really stack up with the 170 listed at NHL.com, so it may include misses or possibly all attempts. The larger point is that Wood was ready, willing, and able to try and put the puck on target. An even bigger point in the visualization is that Wood largely scored from the middle of the ice last season. Only three goals marked as being well to the right side. With respect to needing more quality, it appears to me that is where Wood should focus more on for 2018-19. I see it as an opportunity for improvement. Wood’s shot is not something I would call “great,” but it is effective. Most goals are scored in the middle. While I can appreciate in the flow of a game to just fire away, Wood can have a chance to score or even exceed 19 goals by seeking to take more chances in the middle than settling for what is available at wider angles and longer distances.
Another encouraging sign is something I re-tweeted from Mike using the blog’s Twitter account - which was a quote of another tweet by the Vancouver side of The Athletic, which links to an article there by Harman Dayal. That was a lot to take in; the point Mike made and the data from Dayal is easier to digest:
This piece has some definite tangential interest to Devils fans. Solid numerical evidence for the common eye-test observation of Miles Wood being able to blow people's doors off but often having no idea what to do after that https://t.co/VvgmcJQOum— Mike Stromberg (@ColdSportsTakes) September 18, 2018
Dayal utilized the zone entry data collected so far from 2017-18 by Corey Sznajder to make a point about Jake Virtanen. But that’s not the name we’re interested. Look at Wood and look at that he had a rate of more carry-ins than everybody in the NHL except for Connor McDavid. Again, the lack of ice time Wood received last season does help his rate. That said, he made the most of those minutes by carrying the puck into the offensive zone quite a lot. The Devils seemingly did not rely so much on dump-and-chase with Wood like they did in 2016-17. The benefit is more attacks starting with the puck on a Devils’ stick. That is generally the preferable way to make a zone entry. After all, it is hard to create a scoring chance or take a shot without the puck.
This leads to Mike’s point about not knowing what to do after the entry. His low passing percentage suggests he’s either firing the puck from wherever he gets to or he’s not maintaining possession. This is another opportunity for improvement what Wood could do to improve for 2018-19 to take that proverbial next step. We know Wood is capable of just blowing by players. Wood is extremely fast in going north-south on the rink. Give him some space and a puck to carry or chase, and he will fly. He is fast in attacking. So he needs to work on being more supportive. this is where the coaches can help him out more by giving him some linemates that can at least skate pretty fast to catch up to him quickly. They can cut back more on dump-and-chases, even shallow ones, since those tend to end with Wood possibly winning the puck and usually being behind the goal line where a player is limited in what they can do. I’d like to see whether Wood can continue making plenty of carry-ins on offense if he does receive more ice time. I do not anticipate a massive drop off unless he is used totally differently. With John Hynes still in charge behind the bench, I doubt that will happen for a whole season. Therefore, I think it is reasonable to think that Wood will still be a threat on offense.
If nothing else, Wood can be credibly seen as one of the Devils’ threats on offense. Sure, there is more to improve and more to gain. How he will be used in 2018-19 is a very good question. One that I’ll give some thoughts on for tomorrow.
Conclusions & Your Take
With this four year deal, he will have plenty of time to make the gains he can make. At the same time, with the sub-$3 million cap hit, if things go south, then the contract is movable. If Wood does improve and turns out to be a winger who can play in all situations or become a credible second-line threat at wing, then the Devils have him on a real bargain of a contract. While it took until September 22 to get this deal agreed to by both sides, Wood will have a couple of preseason games and practices to get ready for the season. Today, was a good day for Wood, Shero, and the Devils.
What is your take on the four year contract worth $11 million that Wood signed with New Jersey today? Do you agree it is a good deal? Do you think that it may not be that good of a deal? Have your say in the comments and vote in the poll. Thanks for reading.
Miles Wood signed a 4-year, $11 million contract with the Devils. How do you feel about the deal now?
This poll is closed
I love it!
I like it.
I’m not sure / I’m in the middle on it.
I don’t like it.
I hate it!