Today, the New Jersey Devils announced a contract signing to lock up a restricted free agent. No, not someone who is currently a free agent. They took care of one of the pending RFAs for next year. The Devils announced that defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler has signed five-season contract extension worth $17 million this morning. In a word: Brilliant.
Siegenthaler was our choice for the best defenseman last season by a wide margin. He picked up a reputation for being a very good defensive defenseman in general. The reputation is well earned. Per Natural Stat Trick, in 5-on-5 situations, the Devils took 51.5% of the shot attempts, 51.4% of the shots on net, 52.7% of the expected goals, just below 55% of all scoring chances, and just over 57% of all high-danger chances. His on-ice rates for shot attempts, shots, scoring chances, high-danger scoring chances, and expected goals were the lowest among regular defensemen last season. All the more impressive knowing he played over 17 and a half minutes per game in 5-on-5 hockey. His on-ice rates for penalty killing situations - where he averaged 2:23 per game - were also quite impressive. If you prefer to see heat maps, gaze upon Dr. Micah Blake McCurdy’s tweet and enjoy all the blue for the Devils’ end of the rink.
Jonas Siegenthaler (5x3.4m deal with New Jersey) is a /very/ strong defensive defender with a good impact on team penalty differential but no goal-scoring upside. pic.twitter.com/n5u7RgTyRH— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) July 26, 2022
And McCurdy’s own set of metrics is not alone. JFresh’s and Andy’s & Rono’s Hockey Stats also conclude that Siegenthaler was one of the best in his own end in the entire NHL.
All three would also agree that this contract is utterly fantastic. A steal, if you will. The Devils locked up Siegenthaler with a cap hit of just $3.4 million per season all the way through the 2027-28 season. The team’s announcement included a salary breakdown that I do not think anyone can be mad at. Siegenthaler will make $4.25 million in 2023-24, which is a hefty raise from the $1.2 million he will get in this coming season. That first year in the extension is the peak as Siegenthaler’s salary will decrease with each season. The last season will have the defenseman making a salary of just $2.25 million. A raise for the player in all seasons, but not what you would expect from a 25-year old player. Ownership has to be happy that a player in his mid-20s has agreed to a decreasing contract. Management has to be pleased that Siegenthaler’s extension goes four seasons into what could have been UFA seasons. PuckPedia’s details on the contract includes a 10-team no trade list that Siegenthaler will submit in each season from 2024-25 to 2027-28, but that is no big deal given how team-friendly this contract is. Tom Fitzgerald and his team should feel very proud for securing Siegenthaler to this kind of contract. This is a fantastic deal.
I am surprised that Siegenthaler and his agent agreed to this extension. As he was a pending RFA, Siegenthaler could have used the 2022-23 season to pump up his value more. Especially if it led to a better Devils season and/or ended up being better than John Marino, who is making $4.4 million per season on average due to an extension he signed while an RFA. Perhaps Siegenthaler and his agent understood their place in the larger hockey world. Siegenthaler is very much a one-way player and a defensive one at that. A very good defensive defenseman. Easily the best on the Devils and perhaps among the better ones in the entire NHL. Still, players who do not provide a lot of production or transitional offense and are limited to doing well in their own end of the rink tend to be limited in their earning power. And Siegenthaler absolutely does not bring a lot of offense to the table. Rather than hoping 2022-23 goes much better and then negotiate a more lucrative deal, they figured on locking themselves in now. I still do not get why the agreed to a deal where the player gets paid less in each season, but you cannot unspill milk. Whatever the reason, it is great news for Fitzgerald, the team’s cap, and the Devils.
It also makes the Taylor Hall trade look a bit better. The Devils received Kevin Bahl, Nick Merkley, Nathan Schnarr, a conditional first round pick in 2020 and a conditional third round pick in 2021. That conditional third round pick was flipped to Washington for Siegenthaler back on April 11, 2021. The thought then was that Siegenthaler was a player who just needed a chance and he would get that in New Jersey. Fitzgerald was more than correct in that regard. Unless he develops dramatically, I do not think Ryder Korczak - who Washington drafted with that pick - is going to out-do Siegenthaler.
With Siegenthaler locked up, the future of the defense is going to feature Dougie Hamilton (signed through 2028), Siegenthaler (now signed through 2028), and Marino (signed through 2027). It will not be too long before Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec joins them among possibly other prospects, Comets in the system, and future acquisitions. There is reason to be excited for the future of the blueline. For this coming season, Ryan Graves and Damon Severson will remain in the minds of fans as both are on expiring contracts and will becoming unrestricted free agents. Will Tom Fitzgerald opt to move one of them for a package involving a forward? Will either want to stay on a little longer? It remains to be seen. At a minimum, Fitzgerald has one less major RFA to worry about in 2023 - assuming he will have to worry about them in a year. The only part of the defense that needs to be addressed ahead of training camp is filling in an assistant coach position. The team let Alain Nasreddine go. They still need to fill his spot; hopefully someone who does not believe in overloading puck carriers or strong-side on defense constantly. Nail that coaching vacancy and the Devils’ defense should be much better as soon as this coming season. Even ahead of the titillating potential of Hughes and Nemec making the jump to NHL hockey.
This signing is fantastic. As much as I understand the diversity of thought among the People Who Matter, I think you would have to stretch really hard to find something negative here. The Devils secured a reliable defenseman through the likely the best years of his career with a team-friendly, cap-friendly contract. Still, I want to know what you think of this news. Are you happy the Devils extended Siegenthaler now? Are you more happy about the contract he signed today? What else do you think Fitzgerald has planned for the blueline and this team? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Siegenthaler and his contract extension in the comments. Thank you for reading.