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UFA Analysis: The Devils’ Expiring Contracts

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In this piece, we’ll be looking at all eight of the Devils pending unrestricted free agents.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to look at the UFA’s the Devils have. Spoiler Alert - This won’t be too exciting or ground-breaking of a read.

Special thanks to Natural Stat Trick, for providing a free-easy to use tool to analyze player statistics.

Brian Strait

Brian Strait is a 32 year old defenseman who played four seasons with the Islanders and had a brief stint with the Winnipeg Jets, before joining the Devils, with whom he has exclusively played for the Binghamton Devils.

Strait has been out all season with a concussion, leaving his hockey career shaky heading into next season. I can only wish him the best of luck and hope for a safe and speedy recovery on his end.

Julian Melchiori

Julian Melchiori is a 28 year old defenseman, who played parts of 3 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets.

Melchiori left North American Hockey, pursuing a career overseas with HC Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL.

Brandon Baddock

Brandon Baddock was a 6th round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft. For the past few seasons, Baddock has been a full-time member of the Binghamton Devils, with his last season seeing him record 6 goals, 9 assists and 114 penalty minutes through 50 games.

In terms of NHL potential, it seems safe to say that Baddock has none. His type of player has been largely removed from the NHL, and he offers no offensive potential for the Devils moving forward. However, in terms of a player who can stand up for prized AHL prospects if they get roughed up, Baddock could be seen as that type of player.

As a former captain for his WHL Team, the Edmonton Oil Kings, Baddock clearly is a leader off the ice. In what may be a bit of a controversial take, I’d be okay with the Devils inking Baddock up to another AHL contract, if he wants to stay with the Binghamton Devils and serve as a voice for the locker room. While he may never make the big club, players like Baddock can help the organization in different ways. As such, I wouldn’t mind the Binghamton Devils deciding to keep Baddack, for a scratched-player/4th line role.

Ben Street

Ben Street is a 33 year old veteran forward, who previously had NHL stints with the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings and Anaheim Ducks.

Ben Street played 3 games with the NJ Devils this season, recording a single assist. With the Binghamton Devils, he was their lone representative for the AHL All-Star game, and on the season recorded 15 goals and 27 assists through 49 games.

At this point in his career, Ben Street likely is not an NHL player. However, if Street is willing to continue his career with the Binghamton Devils as a shuffle player with the NJ Devils, I’m all for resigning Street for one of the veteran roles.

Fredrik Claesson

Claesson was acquired in the Sami Vatanen trade, where he suited up for 5 games with the Devils. In those games he recorded a goal and an assist. With the Charlotte Checkers, Claesson recorded 3 goals and 16 assists through 19 games.

At 27, Claesson is in that weird in-between phase where he isn’t a veteran, but isn’t a prospect. While he has played multiple seasons in the NHL, Claesson is more of a “shuttle” player between the AHL and NHL.

In his very limited time with the Devils, Claesson’s advanced stats look like this.

While the data set is extremely limited, Claesson was nothing short of awful for the Devils. While his FF% and CF% are already incredibly low, he also makes the players around him worse. Will Butcher, when playing without Claesson, will clock around a 46.9% FF as compared a 45% FF when playing with Claesson.

To keep this section short, I would hope the Devils move on from Claesson, and explore other options in the market when searching for depth.

Zane McIntyre

Zane McIntyre was a midseason trade, acquired in a swap for Louis Domingue. With the Utica Comets, McIntyre recorded an 11-10-2 record, with a .894 save percentage and a 3.16 GAA.

McIntyre will be 28 heading into the next season, and had a temporary NHL stint with the Boston Bruins.

After joining the Devils, McIntyre was able to start four games with the Binghamton Devils, recording a 4-0-0 record with a .977 save percentage and a 0.75 GAA.

Looking at the Devils goalie prospects, Gilles Senn is likely to man the position, as the 24-year old Swiss prospect showed promise in the games he went into, even making his NHL debut. Evan Cormier and Akira Schmid are also still in the organization, though Cormier’s role is much more in question going into next season. If the Devils want a veteran goalie to back up the net in Binghamton, keeping McIntyre wouldn’t necessarily be the worst move.

Kevin Rooney

Now, for the only player on this list who actually played a significant amount of games for the Devils. Kevin Rooney was signed as an UDFA from Providence College by the Binghamton Devils. In his first full season in the Devils organization, Rooney appeared in 71 games with the Binghamton Devils, recording 13 goals and 8 assists, while making his NHL debut that same season, going scoreless through 4 games. His first significant time spent in the NHL came in 2018-2019, where Rooney played in 41 games, registering 6 goals and 4 assists.

This past season marked Rooney’s first full-time NHL campaign, where he recorded 4 goals and 5 assists while manning the 4th line.

This season is very tough to judge on Rooney’s part. While his advanced stats are extremely rough, Rooney had the unfortunate circumstance of playing the majority of his time with John Hayden.

While the numbers are awful no matter what the circumstance, I do give a lot of credit to Kevin Rooney, in that he helped “improve” John Hayden’s advanced stats from horrific (33% CF, 36% FF) to awful (41% CF, 41% FF).

If I’m the Devils, I likely try to bring back Rooney as an extra forward, hopefully as a scratched player. There’s not much offensively there, but the team does need players who they know can play in the NHL, and potentially clear waivers and serve as a shuttle player.

Dakota Mermis

Dakota Mermis is an interesting case. In 10 games with the Devils, Mermis recorded 1 goal and 3 assists through 10 games. In 53 games with the Binghamton Devils, Mermis scored 3 goals and 16 assists, whilst also serving as an Alternative Captain.

In terms of CF% and FF%, Mermis, while still under 50%, actually recorded the 8th and 11th best stats respectably on the Devils. He spent the majority of his time with Damon Severson, and you can see their advanced stats together here.

Dakota Mermis, without Severson, succeeded in that very limited time, and did better than the Devils average regardless if he was with or without Severson. While he may have brought down Damon Severson’s individual stats a bit, there is nothing that suggests that Mermis wouldn’t at least warrant an extended trial.

As such, I think the Devils should bring Mermis back on a one year NHL contract, in hopes of seeing if Mermis is the real deal. Worst case, Mermis either gets claimed or shuffled back to the AHL, where he can serve in a leadership role.

Your Thoughts

What do you think of my free agent thoughts? Do you agree with all of them? Do you disagree with any of them? Let me know in the comments below, and take care!