The acquisition of Dougie Hamilton was a big win for the New Jersey Devils this past summer. Not only did they sign arguably the biggest name on the free agent market, but they also managed to secure a #1 defender for no resources other than cap space. Signing Hamilton also meant that the right side of the team’s defense was bolstered and players that may have been playing too high in the lineup could be pushed down into more comfortable positions.
One such player would be the player who had been the team’s de facto #1 prior to Hamilton’s arrival would be Damon Severson. Devils fans seemed to generally agree that Severson brought value to the team (how much is usually where there was a good degree of disagreement) but that he was in over his head as the top guy on the team. Even without that responsibility as the team entered this season, expectations on Severson did not seem to be any different.
While he was successful while paired with Ty Smith last season, Severson found a new regular partner that he clicked with in Jonas Siegenthaler. As the second pairing on the team (and with the Devils having rotating parts on the third pair that all still seemed to need at least some degree of sheltering), both Siegenthaler and Severson have been heavily relied upon to reliably defend while Severson has also been expected to still contribute offensively as well.
Severson’s role and minutes would take a bump up after Hamilton went down to a broken jaw. The team had struggled up until that point, but after Hamilton’s injury, the team’s woes only increased. While the defense certainly can’t be blamed for everything going wrong, a lot of fans began to again discuss improving the group on the back end. One such discussion was trading Severson, who still has one year after this one on his current contract, to free up both cap and a roster spot.
I argue here that Severson is once again getting undeserved flack from a vocal group of detractors of his among the fan base. I’m not going to lie, Damon is not a perfect defender; he still has gaffes (as we’ve pointed out before on this site) that make it feel as if your head is going to explode. The fact of this matter however is that these misplays are not as common as said detractors would like you to believe they are, and there are times where Severson is scapegoated for another player’s mistake.
Damon Severson is still a vastly important piece foe the New Jersey Devils; as a 27 year old player (he only turns 28 in August), Severson is still young enough to be an important part of the franchise going forward. Additionally, with P.K. Subban’s $9 million cap hit coming off of the books, the Devils will have space to make their defense even stronger (should they choose to do so) without needing to move Severson’s salary.
Additionally, Severson has still contributed 27 points in his 48 appearances this season despite no longer being the featured offensive defender. For all of the complaints about the Devils not scoring enough, and not receiving enough support from the back end, I’m not sure why anyone would want to move on from someone who helps to put points on the board.
The other recent rumor that has surfaced in Devils circles is one that Severson may want to leave via free agency at the end of next season. I think the Devils should be offering him a new deal; the team doesn’t have the players ready to replace both him and Subban on the right, and there’s no guarantee they find anyone in free agency that is an upgrade on Severson. Additionally, once again, he has his imperfections in his own zone, but they are blown out of proportion to make it seem as though the team would magically be a playoff competitor if they simply replaced Severson.
If Severson wants to test the waters, the team should look to move him next season at the trade deadline if they are out of playoff contention. Unless they are getting a clear upgrade on him by moving him with other pieces, they would be foolish to trade him now. The Devils need to continue to amass a strong group on the back end, and having Severson along with Hamilton, Siegenthaler and Ryan Graves puts the team in a better situation than if they were to have just the latter three names.
To make a long story short, the Devils should be looking to extend Severson; he’s one of the veterans who has been here playing hard for the team. While there are faults in his game, the positive value he brings outweighs the warts of his game. Adding to him (and the others mentioned above) will help the team to take the next step as soon as next season.
What are your thoughts on Severson and his place on the Devils? Do you think the team should be looking to move him, or retain him? If he does want to test free agency, but the Devils are competitive next season, should the team move him anyway? if he re-signs, what would you want the deal to look like? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading?