The New Jersey Devils went into training camp with one of their restricted free agents unsigned: Jesper Bratt. This evening, the team announced that this issue has been resolved. According to their official website, the Devils have re-signed Jesper Bratt to a two season contract worth $5.5 million. He will make $2.05 million for this coming season and $3.45 million in 2012-22. This means his cap hit will be $2.75 million. After this deal ends, Bratt will still be a restricted free agent at the end of it. The Devils have now completed re-signing all of their free agents after 2019-20.
Bratt was a notable absence as the team practiced, drilled, scrimmaged, and prepared for the upcoming 2021 season that will start this week. There were plenty of concerns among the fanbase about Bratt’s status. The Devils are not particularly deep in talent at wing; thus, missing a top-six winger in Bratt stood out like a sore thumb. It was odd that after all of this time off, General Manager Tom Fitzgerald could not come to terms with Bratt and his representation on a new deal. Additionally, per Elliotte Friedman last week, the then-unsigned Bratt was still in Sweden. He would need a contract to obtain a work visa first. That the signing just happened today means that there will be delays for Bratt to even get to New Jersey much less be able to play in games. And it will take at least a couple of games before Bratt can be in shape to play in the NHL. The longer the contract waited, the later it will be for Bratt to actually contribute in the 2021 regular season. To that end, I wish this news happened at least two weeks ago.
However, you cannot un-spill spilled milk. And I am glad the delay is over now. When Bratt is able to come to New Jersey and participate in NHL games after hopefully passing the COVID-19 tests, he should be slotted in as one of the top two right wingers on the team. That is where he was primarily used since making the New Jersey Devils three seasons ago. It will strengthen the quality of the team at that position. The team may still have a possible group of Nick Merkley, Nathan Bastian, and Michael McLeod behind Kyle Palmieri to start this season. While the incoming addition of Bratt may not be great news for any of those three (or whoever else makes the NHL roster and plays right wing), the Devils will be better for it once Bratt gets up to NHL speed again.
Last season showed further encouraging signs for the winger. The Coronavirus Pandemic ended the Devils season early in March. Bratt was on pace to set career season highs in points and assists, and he already set a new career season high in goals with 16. Bratt exceeded the expected goals model (Bratt’s was 8.76) by quite a bit and shot the puck at a hot 15.84% in all situations last season per Natural Stat Trick. Still, Bratt has been the fourth most productive player for the Devils over the last three seasons. While he may have not cracked 40 points - he had a bit of a shot at it in 2019-20 if it was completed - he has been a scoring winger for the Devils. Further, his on-ice rates in 5-on-5 play have shown an improvement since he made the NHL at age 19. He has not been particularly helpful on the power play, but any signs of positive play in 5-on-5 is welcomed given how poorly the Devils have been in a game’s most common situation for the past three seasons. In other words, Bratt has proven his worth to be kept around.
In July, I went into depth about what his next contract could be. I concluded that he would get some kind of a bridge deal, a shorter term contract with an understanding that good performances will yield a much more substantial deal in the future. Back then, I thought his contract comparables were teammate Pavel Zacha, Andre Burakowsky, Kasperi Kapanen, and Sam Reinhart. I guessed he would get a two season contract with a cap hit in the $3.2 to $3.4 million range. It turned out I was too generous. Bratt’s cap hit of $2.75 million and contract ended up being only larger than Zacha out of that foursome. That means this contract signing is very favorable for Tom Fitzgerald and the New Jersey Devils. Especially if Bratt continues to contribute more in general and improves a bit as a player. If Bratt and his representation expected to get more out of the Devils by waiting, then either the Devils initially offered a smaller deal and this is an improvement or their plan failed. Either way, this is a team-friendly contract.
Needless to say, I think the Devils did very well here based on the term and amount of the contract. The only problem is the timing of getting this done. I really wish this could have been resolved earlier such that Bratt could have participated in at least part of this training camp. With new coaches and some new faces behind him at left and right wing, Bratt will have something new to learn in addition to just getting closer to game shape. But what is done is done. Now the work can be done to bring Bratt over and once he is available, we shall see how head coach Lindy Ruff and assistant coach Mark Recchi figure on utilizing Bratt’s talents. The talents are real, he can contribute to the team’s offense, and Bratt could stand to develop a little bit more as he is 22. Now we just have to wait to see #63 at the Prudential Center for games and the RWJBarnabas Hockey House for practices in the future.
Now that Bratt is signed, I want to know what you think of his new deal. Do you think the Devils did well to keep Bratt for two more seasons for a cap hit below $3 million? Do you also wish this could have been done a few weeks ago so Bratt could be here already? What do you expect Bratt to do for the Devils in 2021 when he is available? Where would you like to see him in the lineup? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Bratt’s new contract and Bratt in general in the comments. Also, please vote in our quick poll about it. Thank you for reading.
The New Jersey Devils re-signed winger Jesper Bratt to a 2-season contract worth $5.5 million. What do you think of Bratt’s new contract?
This poll is closed
I love it!
I like the contract.
I’m in the middle on it. / I don’t know.
I don’t like it.
I hate it!