Back on April 11, the New Jersey Devils acquired defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler from the Washington Capitals for the conditional third round pick Arizona gave to the New Jersey Devils in the Taylor Hall trade from 2020. Siegenthaler was a defense-oriented defenseman who was a victim of the numbers game with Washington. The Devils felt he had more to offer than what he could do on Washington’s crowded blueline, so they made the deal. At the time, plenty of the People Who Matter liked the deal. Eight games with the Devils and time missed due to the COVID-19 protocol later, general manager Tom Fitzgerald and his staff were surely pleased at what they have seen. So much so that they announced this afternoon that the Devils re-signed Siegenthaler to a two-season contract worth a total of $2.25 million. His cap hit for the deal will be $1.125 million as Siegenthaler will be paid $1.05 million next season and $1.2 million in the following season. He will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights after this contract ends.
Siegenthaler was a pending restricted free agent coming off a one-season contract worth $800,000 from Washington. It was likely that the GM who traded for him would retain him for at least a little while. That this new deal is for two seasons and includes a modest bump in pay are both signs to me that the organization thinks well enough of what he can do in more games. They also think well enough of what he can do, which is be a depth defenseman for the roster, so he is not being paid or kept for an excessive amount of money or time.
Not that you should read a lot into on-ice rates for someone who played just eight games for the Devils, his 5-on-5 numbers at Natural Stat Trick were decent to very encouraging. His ice time per game was 15:33, which is consistent with being a depth defender. His on-ice CF% of 51.2% was good. His expected goals and scoring chance percentages were fantastic with a xGF% of 54.5%, a SCF% of 58%, and a HDCF% of 61.7%. It was not just that the Devils on the ice were generating shots and creating scoring chances at a high rate - they were - but the rates against them in those categories were quite low. At the best, they were signs that his defensive defenseman reputation was legit. (Aside: Anyone expecting offense from Jonas Siegenthaler will be disappointed and nothing in those eight games suggested otherwise.) At the least, we can conclude that Siegenthaler was not disasterous in his limited action. That may be hard to recall given that the Devils gave up a very high rate of actual goals (5.3) when he took a shift in 5-on-5. But, again, that may not be fair to pin on Siegenthaler alone.
What is more fair is that Siegenthaler being re-signed may represent a modest improvement to the blueline. His inclusion may mean fewer opportunities for the Connor Carricks and Matt Tennysons of the hockey world. It may also mean that the younger defenders in the pipeline like Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotiuk, Reilly Walsh, and Michael Vukojevic will need to work harder to earn minutes. Which may not be a bad thing because it would theorhetically mean those younger defenders would be more ready for the NHL should they earn minutes. It may not be the massive re-work that the team’s defense may need or fill the biggest need (perceived or otherwise) for New Jersey’s defense. But it is an upgrade for the cost of a rather reasonable contract.
As far as the impending expansion draft, this signing means that Siegenthaler could be exposed to meet the requirement of a NHL team exposing at least one defenseman signed through next season and having played at least 54 games over the last two seasons (he played 64 with Washington in 2019-20). However, I would not expect that to happen. Again, Fitzgerald did trade for Siegenthaler and this new contract was literally announced this afternoon. Those both suggest that he wants to keep him in New Jersey. If it was just a one-year deal, then I would be more suspicious as that would suggest the team is not interested in keeping him long-term unless he proves his worth. Instead, I would anticipate that one of Will Butcher, P.K. Subban, or Ryan Murray would be exposed for that requirement instead.
I like the signing in general. The term is not long, the money is not that much (remember that the minimum salary is now $750,000), and Siegenthaler was much better than some of the other defensemen who served a depth role last season in his limited action. What do you think of Sigenthaler’s new deal? What do you expect out of him for the 2021-22 season? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Siegenthaler in the comments. Thank you for reading.