While the New Jersey Devils weren’t all that busy signing unrestricted free agents this summer, it’s not to say they haven’t been making moves. If we start with the draft, not only did they select a player that could be impactful sooner rather than later in Simon Nemec, they also acquired Vitek Vanacek from the Washington Capitals. They did add a pair of UFAs in Brendan Smith and Ondrej Palat, while also acquiring John Marino from the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s the first and let move in the series of them I listed that leads us to today’s topic of debate.
Bringing in Marino gives the Devils a right side of him, Dougie Hamilton, and Damon Severson with Nemec waiting in the wings. While Marino is signed for five more seasons and Hamilton for six, Severson becomes a UFA at the conclusion of the upcoming 2022-23 season. With the three slated to start in the NHL this season on the right, the Devils have roughly $17.6 million committed in cap to one side of the defense. Thankfully, with some of the other bargain contracts they have, cap issues aren’t on the horizon. The problem that could arise is if Severson signs an extension placing his AAV between that of Marino and Hamilton, as other players at other positions come up for raises, the Devils could run into cap issues quickly.
So is this the last season of Damon Severson in New Jersey? Well, it may look that way, but it is certainly too early to say. The team certainly values Severson, having him serve as an alternate captain and playing big minutes, both with and without Hamilton in the lineup. I think there’s three major factors that could determine whether or not Severson stays beyond 2022-23: contract demands, Nemec’s development and deployment.
In terms of contract demands, unless Severson is looking for Hamilton money, the Devils’ right side would still be cheaper than it was this past year, when the Devils had Hamilton ($9 million), Severson ($4.167 million) and P.K. Subban ($9 million) together. Severson turns 28 prior to the start of this season, meaning if he was asking for an eight year contract, it would take him through his age 36 season, with him hitting unrestricted free agency again during the summer that he would turn 37. Honestly for a defender that plays the style Severson does, I don’t think an eight year term would be too concerning. Additionally, if the Devils needed to move him in the last season or two, they could structure the contract to make it easier to do so. If Sevs is looking for something that would see the AAV around $6-6.5 million, I think the Devils might consider it.
The reason they might or might not gets us to the second factor, which is the development of Nemec. Now, I’m aware that one season isn’t a lot of time to evaluate Nemec’s game, but unfortunately that could be the situation the Devils find themselves in. Nemec has signed his entry level deal and the plan as of now is for him to play in North America this season, be it the AHL or NHL level. The NHL path appears crowded as mentioned above, however we’ve seen rookies (be they on the Devils or other NHL teams) have such good training camps/preseason showings that they play their way onto the team. If Nemec doesn’t this, the Devils have at least until the trade deadline to decide what to do with Severson. If Nemec does play his way onto the NHL roster, that leads us to the deployment factor that would also arise if Severson re-signs.
So let’s say Nemec makes the roster this season; the Devils aren’t going to have him sit as an extra D, nor will they put Hamilton, Severson or the newly acquired Marino up there. In this situation, we would see one of our right handed defenders moved to the left side, and if this leads to two of the righties forming a successful pairing, perhaps the Devils re-sign Severson to continue said success. The fact that Ryan Graves is also an unrestricted free agent after this season, combined with the left side beyond Graves and Jonas Siegenthaler currently being relatively unproven could also lead to Severson being retained. If Lindy Ruff and the rest of the coaching staff are opposed to guys on their off-side, however, this entire scenario becomes a moot point.
So if the stars align, or the Devils organizations feel they need to retain their defensive depth, I could see the team bringing Severson back. At this point in time though, I don’t think we see the extension get done this summer. More than likely the Devils evaluate the situation, as well as how the team performs this season before making a decision. If injuries mount again, perhaps Severson proves himself to be indispensable; at the same time, perhaps injuries lead to the Devils falling out of contention and Severson gets moved prior to the trade deadline. We know puck moving RHD carry high value around the league, and perhaps a Severson trade brings back a return that sets the team up for better, sustainable, long-term success. Anyway you slice it, while I think it was possible prior to Marino joining Jersey’s Team, I don’t think we see a Severson extension this summer.
What are your thoughts on the Devils and Damon Severson; do you want to see an extension? Would you prefer to see him moved as a rental at the trade deadline? Do you think the factors I mentioned could be what determines Severson’s fate? Should there be concern about the contract Damon will be looking for? Are you one of the fans who want to see him moved no matter what, and if so, why? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!