The 2022-23 season is still a few months away, however, one must be mindful of the near future. The New Jersey Devils have a plenty of expiring contracts after this coming season. Most of them will have the player enter restricted free agency. This means the team can retain their rights with a qualifying offer; however, they would still need to negotiate a contract for the future. Two of them will play a critical role for the success of next season. Winger Jesper Bratt broke out last season and was the team’s best player in 2021-22. After what I can describe as a game of chicken, the Devils and Bratt agreed to a one-season deal narrowly avoiding arbitration. Goaltending has been a massive source of pain for the Devils and MacKenzie Blackwood may as well be playing for his future in New Jersey in addition to a new contract. You probably know both of those already. This post is not about those two. It is about the third most important pending RFA, someone who could command a lot more money than you may think: Yegor Sharangovich.
The Sharangovich Background
Sharangovich is similar to Bratt in that he was an unexpected find late in their respective draft classes. Unlike Bratt, Sharangovich was a double-overage selection in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL Draft and jumped right to the AHL in the following season. If nothing else, the Devils drafted some depth for their farm team. His two seasons with Binghamton did not suggest that a NHL future would be in the cards. He put up 9 goals and 17 points in 68 games as a rookie with the B-Devils and 10 goals and 25 points in 57 games in his second season. However, that second season belied a terrible scoring slump before Sharangovich got hot to put up 18 of those 25 points in his last 28 games of the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season. What seemed like a streak turned out to be the signs of a blossoming player. Amid a COVID-driven delay in the NHL, Sharangovich was loaned to Dynamo Minsk. There, he played significant minutes in the KHL and scored plenty. Enough to be among KHL leaders with 17 goals and 25 points in 34 games. The hype built up with each point scored for Minsk. Would he get a look in New Jersey for 2021?
He would get much more than a look. Sharangovich would put up a brilliant, highlight-reel worthy, last-second overtime winner for his first NHL goal against Boston in the Devils’ first win of the season. Sharangovich would eventually be slotted next to Jack Hughes and across Janne Kuokkanen on a scoring line few predicted would happen but many enjoyed their work. Sharangovich was a top-six forward in the NHL for much of the season. He continued his production from Minsk with 16 goals and 30 points in 54 NHL games. He proved that he can do more than just hang at this level of hockey. Sharangovich’s ELC ended with this season. His second contract was sorted out early into August last season (free agency began on July 28 in 2021); a $4 million deal over two seasons. Sharangovich was set to be paid a salary of $1.65 million in 2021-22 and a salary of $2.2 million in 2022-23 with signing bonuses of $150,000 in each season. A raise was certainly earned.
Sharangovich’s Last Season
Last season was not the easiest for the Belarussian winger. He was held to just three assists in seven games in October; and he put up three goals and four points in 11 games in November. He didn’t score a goal until November 20, 2021 with a brace against Tampa Bay. His spot in the lineup dropped from a line with Jack Hughes – who was injured in the second game of the season. He even was scratched. Similar to his 2021 linemate, Kuokkanen, it looked like Sharangovich was just (kind of) hot for that one 56-game, 7-opponent 2021 season. A view that persisted after a six-point December and a three-point January.
Then came February and the production from Sharangovich picked up. After entering the month with a five-game pointless streak, Sharangovich was held to no points in just one out of nine games last February. What’s more is that he racked up five goals and six assists in an eight-game point streak. The streak did not continue into March, but he did put up three goals and five assists in 14 games – still an improvement over what he did in the four months before February. Sharangovich got hotter in April with a hat trick over Florida leading an eight-goal, ten-point month. The last three months of the season saw #17 put up 16 goals and 30 points; leading to a final result of 24 goals and 46 points. He finished tied with Damon Severson for fourth most points on the team last season.
In looking back at the season as a whole and even recalling how things were by the end of the season, the worries of Sharangovich regressing faded away. After all, he put up second-straight 20-goal season in terms of scoring rate and literally broke 24 last season. He stays on and at least some of the People Who Matter are hopeful to see what he does next while a not-so-productive Janne Kuokkanen (6 goals, 17 points, 57 games, 64 shots on net) was bought out this Summer.
More About Points: Additional Production-Related Stats by Sharangovich
Despite the inconsistencies in his production, Sharangovich did improve his rates of scoring from his rookie season. His 2021 production was at a rate of .296 goals per game and .556 points per game. In 76 games in 2021-22, those rates were a little higher at .316 and .605 respectively. In terms of shots on net - a less volatile stat than production since there’s no goalie to deny your shots - Sharangovich took 114 in 2021 and 168 in 2021-22. That’s a rate of 2.11 per game in 2021 and 2.21 in 2021-22, a modest increase. Incidentally, Sharangovich’s shooting percentage remained around 14% in both seasons; 14.03% and 14.28% in the last two seasons. We can say that Sharangovich was legitimately more productive last season. As well as perhaps a little more fortunate given the slight improvement in shooting percentage.
I did highlight how his 2021-22 season had Sharangovich more than salvage his production in the last three months of last season. Was this the case in the 56-game 2021 season? Yes. Sharangovich’s awesome overtime winner on January 16, 2021 was his only goal and point in January. He scored two goals in six games in February. Sharangovich’s production rose up after then. Sharangovich put up 4 goals and 8 points in 17 games in March and peaked with 7 goals and 14 points in 16 games in April. May ended with 2 goals and 4 points in 6 games. For that first season, that could be explained away with acclimating to the NHL game after months in the KHL as well as playing amid unusual circumstances. What it does mean is that Sharangovich has had a slow start in getting on the scoresheet in two straight seasons. That is not encouraging for someone who has been and may still be used as a top-six winger in a scoring role.
I will point out that the majority of his 40 career goals and 76 career points with the Devils are at even strength. Sharangovich has only 4 power play goals and 5 power play points over the last two seasons. He was not used a lot on the power play in either season, with 54:06 played in power play situations (1:00 per game average) in 2021 and 92:28 in power play situations (1:13 per game average) last season. If he received power play time, it was often on a secondary unit. Not to mention it was under Mark Recchi’s instructions. Sharangovich has put up almost as much shorthanded goals as he did on the power play (more on that in a bit) with three shorthanded goals. This means that when Sharangovich strikes, it is usually at 5-on-5 (26 goals, 53 points) amid even strength situations (33 goals, 67 points).
More Than Points: Additional Stats with and by Sharangovich
There is more to hockey than just points on the board. Other facts of Sharangovich’s two NHL seasons deserve a closer look.
5-on-5 On-Ice Stats: In 2021, Sharangovich had some OK rate stats in 5-on-5 situations. When he took to the ice in 2021 (Source: Natural Stat Trick, 200 min. minimum):
- Corsi: 54.03 CF/60, 53.36 CA/60, 50.31 CF% (14th on team)
- Shots: 27.99 SF/60, 30.85 SA/60, 47.56 SF% (15th on team)
- Scoring Chances: 25.63 SCF/60, 25.54 SCA/60, 50.08 SCF% (10th on team)
- High Danger Chances: 8.01 HDCF/60, 9.95 HDCA/60, 44.60 HDCF% (20th on team)
- Expected Goals (NST Model): 2.26 xGF/60, 2.55 xGA/60, 46.96% xGF% (17th on team)
- On-Ice Goals: 2.36 GF/60, 2.78 GA/60, 45.90 GF% (11th on team)
Partially as a function of the 2021 Devils not being good, partially as a function of Sharangovich being on the one line opponents could target, partially as a function of that line being relatively inexperienced (Sharangovich, Kuokkanen, and The Big Deal) and partially as a function of Sharangovich himself, the 5-on-5 on-ice rates with Sharangovich should not blow you away. A couple broke even, but some were deep in the red. The high danger chance rate was surprisingly low given how much Lindy Ruff encourages the skaters to break ahead to create those chances. That contributed to a low expected goals rate, which was surpassed in reality by the offense and crushed by reality in the Devils’ net.
In 2021-22, though, things would get better for the Devils when Sharangovich took a 5-on-5 shift. Even with a big chunk of the season without Hughes, who was Sharangovich’s most common teammate with just 506 minutes together in a full 82-game season. When he took to the ice in 2021-22 (Source: Natural Stat Trick, 200 min. minimum):
- Corsi: 60.24 CF/60, 55.44 CA/60, 52.08 CF% (5th on team)
- Shots: 32.41 SF/60, 32.17 SA/60, 50.18 SF% (11th on team)
- Scoring Chances: 31.14 SCF/60, 27.31 SCA/60, 53.49 SCF% (5th on team)
- High Danger Chances: 12.54 HDCF/60, 9.96 HDCA/60, 55.73 HDCF% (10th on team)
- Expected Goals (NST Model): 2.77 xGF/60, 2.45 xGA/60, 53% xGF% (17th on team)
- On-Ice Goals: 3.16 GF/60, 3.98 GA/60, 44.26 GF% (14th on team)
The Devils’ offense bloomed with Sharangovich on the ice last season. Shot attempt, shots, and scoring chances soared with #17 out there. Some of the against-rate stats also rose, but still paced behind the improvements to the Devils’ own rates. Sharangovich went from a player with a “meh” statline in 5-on-5 play to one with a great one. Enough to make me think he had a role with that instead of just being a passenger on a line. Which is encouraging for his future. Although, credit may still need to go with his teammates. Per his teammates page, the Hughes connection helped a lot with that (a second straight one) and playing opposite of Jesper Bratt and his Awesome 2021-22 Season really helped make these numbers happen. Less so with Dawson Mercer, Kuokkanen, Nico Hischier, and the decision to give almost 95 minutes with Michael McLeod. I think this would be better remembered if the Devils’ collection of goaltenders were not a collective disaster last season.
Penalty Killing: Sharangovich has played more in shorthanded situations in the last two seasons than on the power play. In fact, he finished second on the team in total shorthanded ice time with 96:17 (1:47 per game average, second in rate to Travis Zajac among forwards) in the 2021 season. However, that dropped to 78 minutes (1:02 per game average, behind McLeod, Jimmy Vesey, Hischier, and Kuokkanen) last season. Still, Sharangovich was a penalty kill regular in New Jersey. Check out the Devils’ rates against them when Sharangovich took a shorthanded shift per Natural Stat Trick (min. 20 TOI):
- 2021 Corsi Against: 89.69 CA/60 (4th on team out of 14); 2021-22: 93.22 CA/60 (12th on team out of 13)
- 2021 Shots Against: 50.10 SA/60 (3rd on team); 2021-22: 51.62 SA/60(11th on team)
- 2021 Scoring Chances Against: 55.05 SCA/60 (9th on team), 2021-22: 56.24 SCA/60 (12th on team)
- 2021 High Danger Chances Against: 25.98 HDCA/60 (8th on team), 2021-22: 23.88 (12th on team)
- 2021 Expected Goals Against (NST Model): 8.18 xGA/60, (10th on team), 2021-22: 7.7 xGA/60 (12th on team)
- 2021 Goals Against: 7.42 GA/60 (2nd on team), 2021-22: 10.79 GA/60 (13th on team)
In 2021, Sharangovich was a fairly effective penalty killer. He helped limit attempts and shots, although those that were allowed did have some quality to them. Still, the Devils were not burned on the PK. However, things went awry when Sharangovich took a shorthanded shift last season. Part of it is because other skaters had superior on-ice against rate stats. They out-shined Sharangovich so even seemingly small gains in SA/60 or SCA/60 pushed him way down among other skaters. Part of it was because of the goalies. Even with a better expected goals model, goals against ballooned when Sharangovich was on the ice. He cannot make saves. However, part of it is seemingly because he was not as good on the PK under the same coach and mostly the same system (it was returned in November) as he was in 2021. He was not so effective in 2021-22; hence, his reduction in shorthanded minutes. I cannot say it was not deserved. Regardless, his 2021 season makes me think he should at least be in the conversation for a penalty killing spot under a new coach as Ryan McGill replaces Alain Nasreddine. All of this is to point out that Sharangovich is a bit more than just a winger who scores in streaks.
Penalties: Sharangovich is a disciplined player. In 2021, he took only two minor penalties all season. Yes, two. Even with the challenge of playing the same opponent eight times amid a frustratingly awful season, Sharangovich kept his cool. Even with the reality that opponents often just had to stop the Hughes line to neuter the Devils’ attack, Sharangovich remained playing within the rules in the book and the judgment of the referees. Not only did Sharangovich only take two penalties, he drew 14 in 5-on-5 situations. Only The Big Deal (19) and Miles Wood (15) drew more for the Devils in 2021. It is another way Sharangovich contributed, even if the power plays were often wasted.
Sharangovich was not quite so peaceful last season. He took six penalties for 23 minutes: 4 minors, a major, and a misconduct. That is still a fairly low amount for a player who played over 1,200 minutes in 76 games. Plenty of Devils with fewer games and/or minutes than Sharangovich took more calls than he did in 2021-22. What was not as good was that Sharangovich drew fewer calls than he did in 2021. He only drew 10 penalties, putting him in a tie with P.K. Subban (who took 25 last season). That is still a net gain for the team. Which was, again, often wasted thanks in large part to the Mark Recchi Experience. It was still a downgrade from the prior season. Regardless, it is fair to say that Sharangovich plays responsible hockey and can help create a few power plays, at minimum.
Comparables to Sharangovich’s Contract
CapFriendly has a tool for contract comparables. It takes a player’s current contract and uses a series of weights and filters to search through its system to find players who signed similar contracts. The tool organizes the comparables by how close the player’s current deal matches the filters and weights. It takes a little figuring out to weigh certain factors (e.g. signing age, percentage of salary cap) and you do need to be mindful of the filters (e.g. position, signing and expiry status). This can give us a sense of whether Sharangovich is in a position for a raise based on similar contracts by peers. Among RFA forwards with heavier weights on games played and points, here is the list of all forwards who have at least a 90% match with Sharangovich’s current contract:
Janne Kuokkanen, Maxime Comtois, Ryan Donato, Rudolfs Balcers, Jordan Greenway, Denis Gurianov, Ilya Mikheyev, Alexandre Texier, Trevor Moore, Brandon Hagel, Owen Tippett, and Luke Kunin.
The only players on this list with comparable production to Sharangovich with a similar contract are Hagel, Mikheyev, and Moore. Hagel still has a season to go on his deal with a $1.5 million cap hit and a $2.05 salary due next season. He’ll be a RFA after this season, so keep an eye on what happens with him to see what could be in the cards for Sharangovich. Mikheyev became an UFA after his contract and signed a $19 million contract over four seasons with Vancouver this Summer. Sharangovich will not be an UFA, but I would have to think Mikheyev’s deal could be used as a reflection of how much of a raise Sharangovich could get should they both have similar outputs in 2022-23. Moore is like Hagel in that he has another season left on his contract; but he will become an UFA after this season and he carries a higher cap hit ($1.875 million) and salary ($2.25 million). Moore is another comparable to look for during the season.
As for the rest of the list, well, it looks real good that Sharangovich will stand to get a raise over most of them. The highest match to his contract, Kuokkanen, was bought out by New Jersey. Texier just had his contract terminated to go play in Switzerland due to personal reasons. I do not think I need to go into too much detail to argue that Sharangovich is more valuable than Balcers, Tippett, Kunin, Gurianov, Greenway or Donato right now. Should Sharangovich just repeat what he did last season, he stands to get another significant raise as it is. Anything more should make more money for Sharangovich. And it is something that will eat into the $36 million in cap space the Devils will have when contracts expire after this coming season.
Concerns & Questions for Sharangovich Going Into 2022-23
Overall, Sharangovich has shown to be a fairly useful player. There are a couple of qualms about Sharangovich going into this season and beyond.
For one, is Sharangovich going to take months before he becomes productive on the ice in 2022-23? In his first and second seasons, it took a couple before the goals and assists piled up. The first could be chalked up to an acclimation period in a strange situation for the NHL. The second could be an ice cold streak where once he got going, the rest of his game flourished. The end results of both seasons point to good levels of production from the winger. But can it be more spread out, especially as the 2022-23 Devils will need to get results early to avoid another lost season. Scoring more goals in a season than, say, Ondrej Palat ever did is sweet, but it would be sweeter if it happened when the Devils were not essentially eliminated from the postseason.
For another, the most common teammate he played with was Jack Hughes and #86 was involved in his production more than most. As Hughes was injured for much of October and November, that may explain the drop in production then. However, Hughes was shut down for April and Sharangovich kept producing, so that lessens some of the concern. The question still remains in my mind as to whether Sharangovich can be an effective winger without Hughes. The on-ice rates being positive with Hughes are good; and he was not a mess without them. But last season showed that his best teammates were Bratt and Hughes; and I question whether he needs them more than either needs Sharangovich. If Sharangovich can be effective in the run of play and on the scoresheet with other Devils, then that would be great for the winger’s future as he can show he is not just someone who can only produce with better players. It would also be great for the coaching staff as it gives them more options to construct the lineup,
This second concern points to a larger concern (and question): Is Sharangovich a complementary winger? This is not to say that he is a limited player. Sharangovich can draw more calls than he takes. He plays a disciplined game. He can go off on really hot streaks to offset some cold ones. He can play on a penalty kill, despite last season not going well for shorthanded play. He can theoretically play on a power play, which is something I’d like to see how it goes without the Mark Recchi Experience. This is a player that does more than shoot the puck and shoot it pretty well. Yet, can we really say he drives play forward when his on-ice rates were fantastic enough with Hughes and Bratt to uplift less impressive results with other forwards? Knowing that he can go through cold streaks for months at a time, can he be seen as a reliable scorer? Can we say he is very useful if his work is at even strength and secondary work on special teams? I think those questions remain open at this moment. To that end, I do see him as a complementary player.
Let me be clear. It is perfectly fine if Sharangovich is a complementary player. Not everyone can be a boss on the puck and control the game. Good complementary players can help others succeed and, ultimately, make the team better. But a team should not play and especially not pay a complementary player like they are a driver of the team’s success. If it turns out that Sharangovich can only be at his best with Hughes and/or Bratt, then fine. That’s a choice for the coaches to make whether they want to keep that connection going or if they want to opt for someone else that could be a better fit. That’s a possibility for management to consider when the next contract is negotiated. When does a complementary player no longer be just a complementary player? I’m not sure, but how Sharangovich performs in 2022-23 may provide something resembling an answer.
And this brings up other questions. If Sharangovich is going to be a complementary player, is he going to be good enough to stay in the top-six? For this season? What about longer? What if someone else is ready to take over and possibly be better than Sharangovich to play with Hughes and/or Bratt? These questions will certainly come up for consideration when the next contract does come up. Which will be after 2022-23. Unless the Devils opt for an extension, and I would think Sharangovich would be advised to not take one in the last season of his contract, I would expect Sharangovich to file for arbitration to force a deal to happen sooner rather than later in 2023. This is common for RFAs who are eligible for arbitration to force the team’s hand in getting a deal done. I expect Sharangovich to do as Bratt, Wood, and Tyce Thompson did in July. As we saw with Bratt this Summer, the Devils are not above going to the wire if necessary. The better Sharangovich performs, the more he could demand, and that could lead to a repeat of what the Devils endured with Bratt. Which is something they may do again as Bratt is also a RFA after this season. The Devils may want to not go to the last minute for a kick-the-can-down-the-road deal or do so twice in an offseason.
He may not be Bratt or Blackwood, but these concerns and questions make him the third most important pending RFA on the Devils in this coming season. How he performs could greatly impact how the Devils are going forward even beyond 2022-23.
This is all not to say to be down on the player. On the contrary, I’d love it if Sharangovich goes out there and kills it this season. A season where he starts scoring more often early would be great. Maintaining 12-14% shooting percentage and possibly getting to 200 shots would be great. Improving his work on special teams and continuing to do what he did in 5-on-5 play last season would be great. A 30-goal season may be a little harder than it seems on the surface, but I do think it can be done - even if he has to be stapled to Bratt and/or Hughes for the season. Yes, this would make negotiations difficult for Tom Fitzgerald; but I would rather have the difficulty come from a breakout season than a let-down. He’s come this far already from his modest draft selection. Why not aim even higher?
What do you think of Yegor Sharangovich going into 2022-23? Do you think he can produce at a good rate within the first two or three months of this coming season? Can he go back to his 2021 form on the penalty kill? Can he sustain what he did last season in 5-on-5 play? Do you think he needs Hughes and/or Bratt more than they need him? Is he a good enough complementary player for the Devils to lock up? Do you think he can be more than that? Is there a pending RFA on the Devils more important than Sharangovich that is not Bratt or Blackwood? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Sharangovich going into this coming season in the comments. Thank you for reading.