One of the toughest decisions that the New Jersey Devils may have to make with their free agents this offseason involves Miles Wood. Wood, the longest tenured Devils forward at this juncture, is set to become an unrestricted free agent who could command a decent contract on the open market. With money needing to be spent to re-sign some of the other free agents who contribute more offensively, Wood could essentially be a cap casualty for the team. Today we look at Miles Wood, what he’s done so far, and what he could going forward.
Who is Miles Wood?
Miles Wood, while only 27 years old (turning 28 prior to the 2023-24 season) is a veteran of 7 NHL seasons. He has spent his entire career with New Jersey after the team drafted him 100th overall in the 4th round of the 2013 NHL Draft. He could best be labeled as a Bottom 6 Forward and a player who brings grit and energy to the lineup, although he has played higher in the lineup at times, particularly during the years where the Devils were a bit leaner on the wings.
Prior to his arrival at the NHL level, Wood spent three years playing for Noble & Greenough School of the USHS Prep program. He would also spend one season at Boston College, putting up 35 points in 37 games as a 20 year old. He would sign his entry level contract after the conclusion of that college season, and would make one appearance for the Devils prior to the conclusion of their 2015-16.
What Has Wood Done as a Devil?
Wood would make the team out of training camp in 2016-17 and played in two games in October for the team before being sent to the AHL for a stint. He would rejoin the team late in November, securing himself a roster spot ever since. While he was held scoreless in those two games prior to being sent down, he would contribute 17 points before his rookie season was done.
His rookie totals were good for a player who was developing a reputation more for his energy and physicality, but his sophomore season brought forth the potential for more. In 76 contests in 2017-18, Wood contributed 32 points, with 19 of them being goals; the Devils suddenly seemed to be in possession of a physical player who could blossom into more of a Middle 6 winger. Fans speculated as to if there was still another gear or level that Miles had to tap into, with hopes for him becoming a 20 goals scorer in 2018-19.
Miles Wood, signed 1x$3.2M by NJ, is a speedy winger who forechecks and creates shots off the rush. Turnover prone and not a strong playmaker to say the least. Didn't play in 21-22; this is his 20-21 player card, when he actually started finishing his chances. #NJDevils pic.twitter.com/AAoyZoBYPU— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) August 5, 2022
The hope, to this date, has not materialized however. Wood’s next three seasons would see him score 24 points in 63 games (2018-19), 23 points in 68 games (shortened 2019-20), and 25 points in 55 games (0.45 points per game, his best to date) despite the season starting late in 2020-21. The 2021-22 season would be a wash for Wood, as he would miss all but three games due to a hip injury suffered in the preseason that eventually required surgery. Looking ineffective and sluggish in the three appearances he made in 2021-22, there was legitimate concern for how this injury could affect Wood’s playstyle in the future.
After a full summer, training camp and preseason, Wood was ready to go for 2022-23. He provided the Devils with a nice bounce back campaign as part of the BMW line, posting 13 goals and 14 assists in 76 games. Now 27, going on 28 years old, Wood appears to be what he is as a player: a physical winger not afraid to go into the dirty areas who will chip in roughly 25 or so points. On the reverse side of the coin though, as his player card above says, he does turn the puck over quite a bit and he also makes boneheaded plays fairly regularly.
What Will Miles Wood Do Going Forward?
As I mentioned in the last paragraph, most forwards are what they are in the NHL by the time they hit 28 years old with few exceptions. Miles Wood does not appear to be one of said exceptions, meaning he’s a guy you can comfortably put into your Bottom 6, get some production (and some blunders) out of, while not being a complete liability on the ice. The concern with re-signing Wood has to be what kind of contract he’s expecting; if he’s looking for more term and/or dollars per season than the value he brings on the ice, the team needs to let him explore his options elsewhere.
The biggest asset of Wood’s that I’ve yet to really speak about is his speed; Wood absolutely might be one of the fastest skaters in the NHL, as displayed by how many times one of the Devils defenders will try to spring him on a breakaway with a pass from the D-zone. This is probably the biggest point of debate with whether or not the Devils should keep Miles, as replacing him with either deadline acquisition Curtis Lazar, or another cheaper internal option all but guarantees that the Devils fourth line gets slower. If the name of the game is to keep trying to out speed opponents while also playing with a bit of an edge (especially in the playoffs) than the office might determine that Wood should be retained. At the same time, Wood was not particularly effective this postseason, being scratched multiple times, so maybe the team does look elsewhere.
Who are Wood’s Comparables and What’s His Value?
CapFriendly has this list of recent contracts as comparable for Miles Wood’s and while it’s not an exact parallel, I think his old teammate Pavel Zacha as well as Zacha’s current teammate Jake DeBrusk are in the dollar range Wood will be looking for. Wood is a bit older than both current Bruins were when signing their new deal, and again I think he’s going to be looking for the big payday of his career. Miles is also going to be a UFA as opposed to both Bruins who were RFAs, so we could see more teams bidding for him and driving up the price.
I think Wood winds up signing a $4 million dollar deal for 5-6 years. He’s going to want a raise from his most recent deal, and I feel he’s also going to be looking for term to guarantee his earnings in case his hip doesn’t hold out, or his playstyle starts to catch up to him. NHL GMs tend to value players like him who bring physicality along with skill, so I think he will have a number of potential suitors this summer. I just don’t think our Devils should be one of them.
What Would I Do and What Do I Think the Devils Will Do?
I think Miles Wood is going to price himself out of range for the Devils this offseason. He’s a player that has steadily increased the amount he has gotten paid on each contract, including this past one year deal coming off of an injury where he still made $3.2 million. This is his big chance to cash in, and I think he’s going to find a team that’s willing to overpay him or give him more term than I’m comfortable with, which my projected contract above meets both of those criteria.\
Despite his good bounce back from injury season, I worry about his hip holding up given his physical style of play, as physical players tend to see their games age poorly to begin with. I appreciate everything Wood has done as a Devil, but I think this is where I would part ways with him, and I think the Devils will do the same. The team needs to allocate most of their available cap towards Timo Meier, Jesper Bratt and bolstering the defense, leaving little space for a luxury like the speed of Miles Wood.
It will be weird to see Miles Wood in a different uniform next season, but I think that’s the path both he and the Devils are heading down. Maybe something happens where the team sees him as a need and they find a way to strike a deal that both sides are happy with, but I think the Devils acquired Lazar for this reason, and the Devils are going to see one of their longest tenured players moving on.
What are your thoughts on Wood and his career to this point? Do you see the Devils letting him go, or do you think his speed is too important to their game plan? Is there a deal to be made, or is he, as I said, a luxury we can no longer afford? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!