One of the questions from GM Tom Fitzgerald’s press conference after the NHL Trade Deadline was regarding the status of the team’s 2021 first round selection, winger Alexander Holtz. Djurgårdens IF was eliminated from the playoffs and Holtz was available. Fitzgerald stated that they were working on bringing him over here and dealing with immigration. He said there was no timeline. It turned out not to be a long one. The issues have been resolved as Holtz is now an official member of the New Jersey Devils organization. The team announced today that Holtz has signed a three-season entry level contract with the team that begins in 2021-22.
The last bit is important. His contract will begin next season. Not this one. Holtz is joining the organization and he is coming to America. However, he will not be able to play for New Jersey for the remainder of this season. He can (and presumably will, after quarantine) play for Binghamton. As per the Devils’ release about the signing:
The New Jersey Devils today signed forward Alexander Holtz- the first of the club’s three first-round picks and the seventh overall section in the 2020 NHL Draft- to a three-year, entry-level contract starting in the 2021-22 season. Holtz has also signed an AHL Amateur Try-out Agreement (ATO) for the remainder of the 2020-21 season and will join Binghamton once he has finished his quarantine period.
Fitzgerald made it clear that he wanted to bring in Holtz as soon as possible. Given that the NHL season is ending within the next four weeks, the timing would be tight to get Holtz in after quarantining. There would also be the risk of beginning his ELC contract should he play in seven or more NHL games this season. Through this approach, the risk is removed and the benefit will still be made. Holtz will be with the organization and participating in team activities after quarantine. Remember that Binghamton is playing at the practice rink of the Prudential Center this season. (Aside: And that’s sad as Binghamton is expected to move to Utica. Jeff will have more to say about that.) It will not be hard for the NHL staff to keep tabs on Holtz. Holtz will be able to get involved with other players and acclimate to the game a little earlier than if he waited until training camp in the Fall.
I can understand a little disappointment that he will not get to make his NHL debut right away. That there will be no moment in this season of Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier setting up the young winger for what would be a great shot. (Holtz’ shot is one of his best assets as a prospect.) But I am fine with that. As much as there is little for New Jersey to play for, there is not going to be a lot of opportunity to Holtz to get into the lineup and do anything appreciable on the ice. While he was active on the ice recently, the North American game is different than what he could be used to in Sweden. Throwing him onto a lineup of a bad hockey team now just to see what the 19-year old has in an unfamiliar environment will not likely be worth it at this moment. He can get a little experience here with Binghamton and get more prepared for training camp and preseason. That is when he could (and might) earn a spot in the NHL.
I will say I appreciate Fitzgerald being pro-active about bringing Holtz over and getting it done. As I understand it, his situation at Djurgårdens IF went awry. He hit a scoring slump and the team was more focused on its own success than playing younger players like Holtz and 2021 draft eligible forward William Eklund. Just after their playoff elimination, Holtz was looking to keep playing - which was a clear sign he was interested in coming over. Since Sweden never selected him for a national team camp, he was available. While Fitzgerald could have waited until after this season to make this ELC happen, I like that he went for him as soon as possible.
What do you make of the Devils signing Holtz to an ELC? Would you have preferred he was signed for this season? Do you think Holtz will get a few games with Binghamton? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Holtz in the comments. Thank you for reading.