Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils is returning to play tonight for the first time since the first period against the Seattle Kraken, which was back on October 19. That in of itself is big news. After suffering a separated shoulder from a hit by Jeremy Lauzon, Hughes was out for the previous six weeks. The People Who Matter, the Devils fans, have been hopeful that the Devils could stay competitive until he returns. While Hughes has only played four periods this season, they have seen flashes of Hughes having a season befitting of the nickname, The Big Deal. Evidently, that was not enough. Today needed to be even bigger. So General Manager Tom Fitzgerald and ownership made it bigger: the Devils signed Jack Hughes to an eight-season, $64 million contract extension this afternoon.
In other words: The Big Deal signed a Really, Really Big Deal.
This is just a million over Dougie Hamilton’s $63 million contract that brought him to Newark this past Summer. This means it is the largest contract among the New Jersey Devils players. And it comes with the cap hit of just $8 million. Yes, $8 million. Here is the breakdown from the Devils’ own press release:
The contract begins in 2022-23 and the breakdown is as follows: 2022-23: $9,000,000, 2023-24: $8,500,000, 2024-25: $8,500,000, 2025-26: $8,500,000, 2026-27: $8,000,000, 2027-28: $7,500,000, 2028-29: $7,000,000 & 2029-30: $7,000,000
CapFriendly’s page notes a modified no-trade clause to 10 teams for the last four seasons of the deal too. That will not be a factor until 2026, though.
Hughes needed a new contract as this season was the final one in his entry level contract. Doubters and critics may claim that Hughes has not done enough to warrant this much money. I say that Hughes is only going to get better from what he is and what little he showed this season suggests strongly that he is going to take a massive leap. Should he hit his vaunted potential, an $8 million cap hit will be an absolute bargain. It may become one anyway if the salary cap returns to rising regularly in the coming decade. Look at Pittsburgh (Crosby) and Colorado (MacKinnon) with how they have locked up their most talented players on huge deals that ultimately turned out to be really cheap for the caliber of player. To make that happen, the deals have to come early. New Jersey did this with Nico Hischier. They have done it today with Jack Hughes.
This extension also makes Tom Fitzgerald’s picture for the near future a little clearer. Hughes was going to command the largest contract among the pending free agents from this season. With this out of the way, he has a better understanding of how much is remaining for his restricted free agents. Not an insignificant list this season as it includes Jesper Bratt, who has had an amazing November, and Pavel Zacha among others. The Hughes deal also allows Fitzgerald to know what is locked down when considering players coming out of contract just beyond this season like Mackenzie Blackwood. Getting that clarity way before the NHL Trade Deadline and next year’s offseason is a plus.
But it is all about Hughes and I really think this is a very smart bet of a contract extension. His passing is superlative. How he reads the game is great. He will be a huge addition to the offense, which has had some really fine nights here and there thanks to Bratt, Andreas Johnsson, Hischier, Zacha, and the emergence of Dawson Mercer. Head coach Lindy Ruff now has the favorable problem of figuring out who plays with who. That can always be changed. Hughes’ quality cannot be. He was easily New Jersey’s best player in 2021 on a real bad squad in an unusual circumstances. He can still end up being New Jersey’s best player on a more competitive team in a more regular season. The Big Deal will be one until he turns close to 29. The Devils will get the best years out of him and we could see a real step towards that this season. And it may even start tonight.
In short, I am a fan of this contract extension. What is your take on The Big Deal getting a Really, Really Big Deal of a $64 million contract extension? Please leave your reactions in the comments. Thank you for reading.