This afternoon, the New Jersey Devils announced another restricted free agent has re-signed with the team. Jesper Boqvist accepted his qualifying offer and therefore re-signed with the Devils for one season on a two-way contract. Per the team’s announcement, he will be paid up to $874,125 when he is with the Devils and $70,000 if he is with the Utica Comets.
I am not completely surprised that Boqvist would just sign his qualifying offer. While Boqvist played mostly with the New Jersey Devils last season (he did have 7 games in Utica), he was not all that impactful. He did put up 10 goals and 23 points in 56 games with 76 shots on net last season. Career highs at the NHL level too. That was good. On the not so good side, when Boqvist was on the ice per Natural Stat Trick, the Devils had a CF% of 48.94%, a SF% of 48.37%, an xGF% of 48.24%, a SCF% of 48.9%, a HDCF% of 50.78%, and an actual GF% of 46.55%. In other words, he was not really helping the team’s general cause in 5-on-5 in the 12 or so minutes per game he played. Boqvist was more productive but only a little better in the run of play than Janne Kuokkanen, who was bought out. I am not shocked that Boqvist would sign whatever he was offered from this perspective.
Jesper Boqvist (signed his cheap QO) is a weak play-driver with some good goal threat skills. pic.twitter.com/G5eMbU8KEq— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) July 22, 2022
It is also why it is a little telling that it is a two-way contract and not a one-way contract. My initial thought was that Boqvist was finally breaking through and could at least claim to be a NHL player. But, again, the performances Boqvist had last season - when he was actually playing - were not all that notable or even worthy of saying “He is definitely a NHL player.” The production may say so, but the run of play suggests he could have been better. Boqvist is now eligible for waivers, so I doubt he actually ends up in Utica. However, I do think the two-way contract for just the one season is a sign that management may want him to prove (again?) that he is more than a fringe player for the bottom six in Newark. He will be a RFA and eligible for arbitration next season. If he shows little progress though, then he may not have much of a future in Newark regardless.
The opportunities will be there for Boqvist to prove it. Boqvist can play all three forward positions. Boqvist is still fairly young, although I will point out that he is not likely to develop too much more than he is. Plus, he turns 24 by the end of October While his 5-on-5 rates were not good, they were still better than Kuokkanen, Nathan Bastian, and Michael McLeod so he certainly was not the worst among last season’s regulars at forward. If anything, it will be on Comets to try to show they are better than him in camp (among others), so Boqvist can set the pace so to speak.
From the Devils perspective, there is really nothing bad about this at all. The qualifying offer was the minimum they could offer and Boqvist took it. Some may bristle at the team seeing him as more of a fringe player than a NHL regular, but the data suggests he still needs to establish that he can do more than chip in some points. That he accepted the offer as-is suggests that Boqvist and his camp may feel the same way. For the team, its one signing down and for a minimal commitment in term and cost. Tom Fitzgerald and his staff can go on to the next one.
As for the Devils’ cap situation, this relatively minor signing now leaves the Devils with about $8.72 million in cap space with Fabian Zetterlund, Tyce Thompson, Miles Wood, and Jesper Bratt left to sign among qualified RFAs. That number does not include Jonathan Bernier going on long term injured reserve so the true number to play with is $12.8 million. Which could be a bit tight to fit all four players. The Devils elected to take Wood to arbitration, and Thompson and Bratt elected for arbitration themselves. According to the NHLPA, Bratt’s hearing is scheduled for August 3, Wood’s hearing is scheduled for August 6, and Thompson’s hearing is scheduled on August 11. I would anticipate those contracts to be sorted out and signed before those dates. Zetterlund’s next contract can come whenever in this offseason.
What do you make of Boqvist accepting his qualifying offer to be re-signed for a season on a two-way contract? Do you think Boqvist should have pushed for a one-way contract? Do you think Boqvist makes any improvements to get a more secure contract next season? What do you expect from the forward? Please leave your thoughts this signing and Boqvist in the comments. Thank you for reading.