Earlier this afternoon, the New Jersey Devils announced that they have signed one of their two remaining restricted free agents that filed for arbitration. No, not Jesper Bratt - which has until tomorrow at 9 AM to get done before there is a hearing. The Devils and Tyce Thompson have come to terms on a two season contract worth a total of $1.525 million. This means Thompson will incur a cap hit of $762,500 when he is in the NHL.
Per the Devils’ own announcement, it is a two-way contract for the first season of the deal. Thompson will be paid at a rate for $750,000 in salary when he is in the NHL and $175,000 in salary when he is in the AHL. In the second season of the contract, it becomes a one-way deal where Thompson will be paid $775,000 regardless of whether he is a Devil or a Comet. Per the NHL CBA extension, the NHL minimum salary for 2022-23 is $750,000 and for 2023-24 is $775,000. Thompson was re-signed for the league minimum in both years with the only bump in pay coming from the contract turning into a one-way deal in 2023-24.
I will admit I would have been curious to see how an arbitration hearing over Thompson would go. He has played all of nine NHL games in his career. He has one assist and seven shots on net total. In 2021, he played in seven games with New Jersey and 11 with Binghamton in a pandemic-shortened campaign. Last season, he just made two appearances in November and then suffered an injury in that second game that required shoulder surgery. This caused the young forward to miss most of the season as he returned to the Utica Comets in April. He did play in the playoffs for the Comets as well as finished up the season. It still remains an open question as to what Thompson can even do in pro hockey. I am not sure what would even been brought up as a comparable or an exhibit if a hearing happened on his scheduled date of August 11. He has yet to play anything close to a full season in pro hockey.
Clearly, the arbitration filing was to put a timeline on getting a deal done. Mission accomplished. The deal was for the NHL minimum, although Thompson and his agent can feel good about securing a one-way salary in the second season. This upcoming training camp and preseason will be crucial for Thompson to establish why he was on the fringes of making the NHL right out of college in the first place. The emergence of Fabian Zetterlund last season, the retention of Jesper Boqvist, and the potential arrival of Alex Holtz (among other Comets such as Nolan Foote and Graeme Clarke) means a spot is not necessarily going to be easy for Thompson to get. Plus, he is 23 and so there may not be a lot of room for development left in his game - although the lack of experience may mean he could bloom a little later.
From the perspective of Tom Fitzgerald and his staff, this was a task to be taken care of. He needed a new deal, it was not going to a lot in both money and term, and the only requirement was to get it done before August 11. Check, check, and check. If it works out, then great; New Jersey gets at least a depth winger on a NHL minimum salary. If not, he can work to hone his game with a full season in Utica. Thompson is ineligible for waivers for 2022-23 provided he plays less than 63 NHL games. Which if he does play in that many games, then he is probably too good to play in the AHL anyway. It is in 2023-24 that he would have to clear the waiver wire for any demotion.
To put it bluntly, Tyce Thompson has not yet done much of anything to think he can be anyone in the pro game. This signing is not really worth a celebration outside of Thompson and his people. There is even less to criticize given it is a NHL minimum deal. It was something that had to be done and it was.
Now, Fitzgerald, please get Bratt signed before 9 AM ET tomorrow. And maybe consider terms with Miles Wood before August 6 unless the team really wants that arbitration hearing to happen. (Maybe they do, it is team-elected arbitration after all.) Once those are sorted and Zetterlund is re-signed, the Devils’ offseason can focus on getting some players in on a PTO and continue preparing for training camp next month.
In the meantime, what do you make of this signing? Do you think Tyce Thompson will live up to this NHL minimum contract? Do you think we will see more of him in New Jersey or Utica in the next two seasons? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Thompson and his new contract in the comments. Thank you for reading.