With the expansion draft protection lists due this week, a number of NHL teams have made some major moves already. More are making more minor moves ahead of a jam-packed July offseason. The New Jersey Devils just announced one of them. The team announced this morning that they re-signed defenseman Colton White to a one-season, two-way contract. Per the team’s announcement, White will get paid $750,000 in the NHL and $130,000 in the AHL. He will be a restricted free agent after this contract ends and he will be eligible for arbitration per CapFriendly.
This signing will be more relevant for Utica than New Jersey. White has received a little bit of NHL action over the last three seasons. He played in three games in 2018-19, six games in 2019-20, and two games in 2021. While White was not necessarily bad in those games, he was not so good to warrant White being anything more than an emergency/deep call-up among the defensemen. With Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotiuk, Reilly Walsh, and Michael Vukojevich in the AHL, White’s role is unlikely to change with respect to the NHL. It is not a surprise he was retained on a two-way deal for the NHL minimum salary.
However, White’s role may increase in the AHL with Utica. If you look into his past contracts at CapFriendly, today’s signing means a third straight contract with a raise at the AHL level. His entry level contract - which is two-way by default - saw him getting paid at a rate of $65,000 per season. Last season, he was on a one-season, two-way deal where he got paid at a rate of $90,000 per season. On this deal, White is now six-figure territory with an AHL salary of $130,000. Clearly, someone in the Devils organization liked what he has done in the minors. White has signed a deal that is closer to what you usually see given to AHL veterans: a two-way NHL contract with a six-figure AHL salary.
It seems odd to call a 24-year old defenseman a “veteran” for the Utica blueline. It is appropriate as White was an alternate captain last season, he will be playing his 200th AHL game next season, and he could end up being one of the older players on the team’s blueline in 2021-22. He already was last season as White was the fourth oldest defender after Matt Tennyson, Connor Carrick, and Josh Jacobs. Given that White is unlikely to make it and stay in the NHL, White may end up serving as one of the more experienced blueliners for the AHL team. While New Jersey is not going to necessarily improve if Utica is more competitive, it is generally better to not have the farm team get waxed on a nightly basis. It may behoove the Devils to seek out another veteran defender or two to help out what could be a very young blueline in Utica - Bahl, Okhotiuk, Walsh, and Vukojevich are all under 23. This signing helps address that while maintaining some consistency from past seasons.
Ultimately, this signing is one of those minor deals that just needs to be done. White was a RFA and RFAs are generally re-signed. It may not move the proverbial needle in general as White is primarily a minor-league player. It almost certainly will not at the NHL level. But it is the sort of thing that has to be taken care of within the organization in an offseason. White can be checked off the somewhat long list of RFAs that General Manager Tom Fitzgerald and his staff have to address. Again, this signing will be more relevant and (hopefully) beneficial for the Utica Comets. I would still like to know what you think about Colton White and this deal. Please leave that in the comments; thank you for reading.