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New Jersey Devils RFA Profile: Yegor Sharangovich

Yegor Sharangovich is one of the several restricted free agents on the New Jersey Devils. Unfortunately, his 2022-23 season was a disappointment compared with the prior two. This post goes into his time with the Devils so far, comparable contracts, and what I think the Devils will do with him.

New Jersey Devils v Washington Capitals
What’s next for the Belarussian?
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

A lot can change within three seasons. Within three seasons, a player can go from a hopeful part of the future to someone who just does not fit. Within three seasons, a player can go from someone earning a bridge deal to someone who may almost deserve the same sort of deal after it ends. Within three seasons, a player can go from productive on a bad team to not-so-productive on a much better team. Within three seasons, a player can be hailed as a diamond in the rough initially and then seen as just a guy by the end. Within three seasons, a player can flourish next to a burgeoning season and then find himself scratched in the playoffs except for three games.

A lot has happened to the perception and the reality of the career of Yegor Sharangovich within three seasons. Now he is up for a new contract. I just gave you the general summary of what has happened. Let us dive deeper for the facts.

Who is Yegor Sharangovich?

Yegor Sharangovich is a 6’2”, 196 pound forward from Minsk, Belarus. He was born on June 6, 1995, which means he just turned 25 two days ago. Happy belated birthday to Sharangovich. The New Jersey Devils drafted him in the fifth round of the 2018 NHL Draft at 171st overall. He was an overage selection and out of contract with the KHL’s Dynamo Minsk, which meant he could jump over to North American hockey right away. (Aside: I turned out to be wrong about not liking the Schmid pick per that post.) Which he did as he was signed to an entry level contract in July 2018 and he joined Binghamton for the 2018-19 season.

After two fairly non-descript seasons with the B-Devils (In his second season, he put up 25 points in 57 games and most of those points where in the second half of that cut-short season), Sharangovich followed the lead of many with European ties during the pandemic and got a loan to play for Dynamo Minsk of the KHL. The 22-year old glowed up in the KHL. In his 34 appearances in the KHL, he put up 17 goals and 25 points while captaining the squad. It was enough to get the People Who Matter hyped and hoping he could make the Devils roster if/when the NHL season would happen. Which he did ahead of the shortened 2021 season. Would he make an impact? Would his game translate to the NHL? After a last second breakaway goal in overtime to beat Boston in the Devils’ second game that season, the answer was absolutely.

Sharangovich would play largely next to Jack Hughes and Janne Kuokkanen for the 2021 season. He would be among the Devils’ top scorers that season with 16 goals and 30 points in 54 games. It looked like the Devils found another Bratt-like finding from the later rounds of 2018. It looked like the Devils had their shooter to play next to The Big Deal. It looked good. General Manager Tom Fitzgerald was pleased to give Sharangovich a big bump in pay through a bridge deal. A two-season contract worth $4 million. Enough to reward the player but also enough to send the message of “show us what more you can do.” I loved the deal at the time and it did align with Gerard’s point made earlier that day that he had an important 2021-22 season coming up.

Unfortunately, Sharangovich’s 2021-22 was rough to start. He was ice-cold on the puck. He lost his spot next to Hughes. He even got scratched a couple of times. Sharangovich was held goalless until November and he would not get productive until February. Then, he got hot. He put up 16 of his 24 goals and 30 of his 46 points that season from February through April. Sharangovich did improve his numbers over his prior season, but how he got there raised some concerns. Enough for me to write that 2022-23 would be an important season for the now pending restricted free agent (RFA) last August.

The 2022-23 campaign was even rougher for Sharangovich. He remained deeper in the lineup, away from the top six more often than not. It was enough to make me question his usage during last season; but, in retrospect, I cannot say the Devils missed much - even when Haula was missing nets regularly. They did win over 50 games, score heaps of goals, and win a playoff round after all. Sharangovich would get regular penalty killing shifts, but his overall shifts dropped compared to his prior two seasons. So did the production. Goals fell to 13, one fewer than the maligned Erik Haula. Points returned to 30, the amount he posted in a shortened 2021 season. Sharangovich dressed for 75 games in the season but just 3 out of 12 in the playoffs. And he registered nothing but two shots on net across those three games. A notable fall after what seemed so promising in his rookie campaign. All under the same management team and head coach, too.

Now he is 25 years old, his bridge deal is over, and the questions around him loom. Was it a down season and can he rebound in 2023-24? Does he figure into the Devils’ long term plans? How should they seem him.

What Has Sharangovich Done So Far As a Devil?

The super-short version is that Sharangovich went from a top-six winger who kills penalties to a middle-six winger who kills penalties to a winger that was deemed not good enough to play in the playoffs outside of three appearances. As usual with posts I usually write, let us look into some data for more detail.

First, here are some higher-level stats from NHL.com:

Yegor Sharangovich NHL.com Player Stats.  Ranks are out of 16 in 2021, 13 in 2021-22, and 14 in 2022-23
Yegor Sharangovich NHL.com Player Stats. Ranks are out of 16 in 2021, 13 in 2021-22, and 14 in 2022-23
NHL.com

Sharangovich made the roster in 2021 after an excellent loan with Minsk and hit the ground running. Often playing with Kuokkanen and Hughes, Sharangovich fired plenty of pucks, put up quite a few goals, and played quite a bit. The team was not good but Sharangovich was a bright spot and one to watch for the future. In 2021-22, despite being cold or cool on the scoresheet until February, Sharangovich would put up more goals, more points, and more shots (and a higher shot rate) while still playing quite a bit. Albeit on a secondary PK unit and a secondary PP unit, but Sharangovich kept getting significant minutes to perform.

Then came this past season. Sharangovich’s minutes were cut. His time with Hughes was cut. Notable as 49 of his 106 career points were with Hughes. Sharangovich’s production dropped. He shot the puck less often, those shots did not go in the net that often, he was removed from the power play units, and the only increase was in shorthanded ice time. Did his reduction in minutes and role come from not producing or did his drop in production come from the reduction in minutes and role? My answer is: Yes.

Second, here are 5-on-5 on-ice rate and individual stats for Sharangovich from Natural Stat Trick. The on-ice rates (everything that doesn’t start with an ‘i’) represent what the Devils did when Sharangovich was on the ice. The individual stats are what Sharangovich received credit for in 5-on-5 hockey.

Yegor Sharangovich 5-on-5 On-Ice Rate and Individual Player Stats. Ranks are out of 16 in 2021, 13 in 2021-22, and 14 in 2022-23
Yegor Sharangovich 5-on-5 On-Ice Rate and Individual Player Stats. Ranks are out of 16 in 2021, 13 in 2021-22, and 14 in 2022-23
Natural Stat Trick

When Sharangovich took a shift in his productive rookie season, the Devils were not exactly doing so hot in 5-on-5. The 2021 Devils were a Bad team so outside of high-danger chances and expected goals, Sharangovich’s on-ice percentages were OK to good relative to other Devils forwards. Sharangovich also benefitted from a respectable PDO, the sum of on-ice shooting and save percentages. In terms of 5-on-5 offense created, few Devils made more happen on the ice in 5-on-5 than Sharangovich on that 2021 team.

That offensive production did continue in 2021-22 by Sharangovich when it came to attempts, shots, chances, and expected goals from the player himself. The issue was that on-ice rates were not as strong. The Devils’ play with Sharangovich on the ice was positive for the most part. While he was not the best in every category among his fellow regular playing forwards, he was well above 50% in each category save for Goals For. As most of the People Who Matter will point out, the Devils’ goaltending in 2021-22 was a terrible nightmare in the net. An on-ice save percentage of 87.6% is both bad and tough to overcome. This meant a lot of goals against and plenty of them happened with Sharangovich on the ice. This meant the Devils were out-scored with Sharangovich on the ice (and in general) and that puts a damper on how Sharangovich performed. More so when you remember he did not really get productive until February 2022.

Then you can see the drop off in more detail in 2022-23. While the Devils were a better team, Sharangovich’s positive on-ice rates paled in comparison to other regular forwards on the team. (Aside: The 14 forwards in 2022-23 includes Timo Meier and Fabian Zetterlund.) While those rates on other teams would be quite good, they were on the lower end on a Devils team that did quite well in 5-on-5 play. Worse, despite the Devils goaltending being better, Sharangovich’s shifts were still lacking in that end. And the on-ice shooting percentage and his own dipped, which meant fewer goals scored and Sharangovich being out-scored. He finished this past season with the worst GF% and PDO (and HDCF%) among regular Devils forwards. This meant the Devils did not perform so well when he was out there. Sharangovich himself took fewer shot attempts, shots, and chances. While he was not among the worst, it was a step down from the last two seasons. Again, this meant fewer opportunities to score and Sharangovich finished 2022-23 with fewer goals and points. Basically, this past season showed Sharangovich being more or less a guy in the lineup instead of a significant contributor at forward. With these numbers in mind, it is not a total surprised he was scratched more often than not in the postseason.

Third, Sharangovich did play regularly on the penalty kill. Special teams play does count. It can show how a player can contribute when they themselves are not performing so hot in regular 5-on-5 play. To that end, here are Sharangovich’s on-ice against rate stats in shorthanded play from Natural Stat Trick.

Yegor Sharangovich Shorthanded On-Ice Rate and Individual Player Stats. Ranks are out of 8 in 2021, 8 in 2021-22, and 7 in 2022-23
Yegor Sharangovich Shorthanded On-Ice Rate and Individual Player Stats. Ranks are out of 8 in 2021, 8 in 2021-22, and 7 in 2022-23
Natural Stat Trick

Shorthanded stats are subject to more variability just by the nature of the limited ice time and situational use. Sharangovich went from a primary PK role as a rookie, a secondary one in 2021-22, and a primary one again in 2022-23. On their own, these are good on-ice rates. Yes, they are high but remember that the Devils were down a man and so the opposition is going to tee off when they can. Even his 2021-22 season, which ranked poorly compared with other Devils, was not bad from an on-ice rate standpoint. What helped Sharangovich’s PK efforts was solid goaltending behind him in his first and third seasons. That second second, well, he did not get that goaltending help (few did in 2021-22) and so he was lit up on the PK. Sharangovich being able to put up solid rates and his best ones in 2022-23 speak to the possibility that he is quite good as a penalty killer. It is something he has and could continue to contribute even if his role in 5-on-5 play is muddled.

That is ultimately what Sharangovich has done. He has went from a scorer often playing and producing alongside Jack Hughes to a middle-six forward who can kill penalties. Even if you can argue that next season will see a bounce-back from the Belarussian, he suffered a downgrade among the Devils forwards in this past season. Something that goes along with not doing a whole lot for the team even after two seasons of production on a Bad team.

What Will Sharangovich Do Going Forward?

While he is entering his fourth NHL season, he is now 25. Sharangovich is basically done developing. Sure, he can refine or improve a few things. But in terms of development, Sharangovich’s game is what it is. He has a good shot. He is not particularly fast but he is not so slow that he cannot keep up. He is good enough off the puck to play defense and on a penalty kill. He fell down in the depth chart due to other Devils performing better on the ice and/or on the scoresheet. Should he return, I would expect Sharangovich to be in the same place he was last season. Lindy Ruff, the team’s head coach last season and soon-to-be-signed for this season, bumped him down to a middle-six role where he bounced around different lineups. I doubt that will change unless Sharangovich’s performances command more minutes. He was utilized on the penalty kill quite a bit; I would think he would return to that for 2023-24. He is basically what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It has use, but does it have much use here in New Jersey? Hold that question in your mind for a bit.

What Are Sharangovich’s Comparable Contracts?

Sharangovich is coming off a two-season contract worth $4 million for a cap hit of $2 million. He made $2.2 million last season; $2.05 million in salary with a $0.15 million signing bonus. The contract, signed after his strong rookie season, was meant to be a bridge deal. The intent of that kind of contract is that it will lead to a larger contract should the player keep improving and/or performing. We cannot say that applies to Sharangovich. His 2021-22 season did have more points but it comes with the caveat that it mostly happened well after the Devils’ season was effectively over. His 2022-23 season was a disappointment considering how the first two seasons went. My gut feeling is that Sharangovich may end up with a similar contract once again.

In using CapFriendly’s comparable contract tool, I plugged in Sharangovich’s current information. A cap hit of $2 million, a RFA who is eligible for arbitration, and someone with 205 games played with 106 points. In filtering for other wingers, those who were RFAs that were eligible for arbitration, and weights set at the maximum for games played and points, there were a lot of results above 91% similarity. All of them ranged in cap hit from $1.475 million for one season (Markus Granlund’s 2018 contract) to $2.5 million (Sergei Kostitsyn’s one-season re-signing in 2011). The players included in this similarity were mostly middle-six forwards. Such as Drew Stafford in 2009 ($1.9 million, 2 seasons), Riley Sheahan in 2016 ($2.075 million, 2 seasons), Brandon Sutter in 2011 ($2.066 million, 3 seasons), Anthony Beauvillier in 2019 ($2.1 million, 2 seasons), and Jesper Fast in 2017 ($1.85 million, 3 seasons). With the exception of Justin Abdelkader in 2012 and Calle Jarnkrok in 2016, all of these players signed between one to three seasons. In other words, these players either got a deal like Sharangovich’s where it was a bridge deal for the future or it was a short extension to figure out what the near future would hold for not a ton of money.

While the salary cap is higher in 2023 than it was back then, the past shows that a cap hit and salary around $2 million is fair for a player of this level of production and age. The larger salary cap may command a bump in pay just to keep up with the increasing ceiling, but it would be a small bump. Something like an extra $100,000 or two to keep Sharangovich around 2.45% of the cap, which was his recent cap hit percentage. Still, the comparables suggest to me that Sharangovich was fairly paid for his services. If he is going to provide more of the same, then he should be paid that way. And very well could, even if it is for one or two more seasons.

What Would I Do with Sharangovich & What Do I Think the Devils will Do?

I am combining these sections because I think they are the same. It is a success that an overage draft pick from the fifth round in a draft five years ago made it to the NHL, played three seasons, averaged over 0.5 points per game, and developed a kind of knack for killing penalties. However, the Devils are a different space than what they were three seasons ago. Sharangovich fell on the depth chart, his production and contributions suffered, and despite how useful I think he could be, Ruff and his staff did not think he was useful enough to even dress him for a majority of playoff games in 2023. Sports is very much a What Have You Done for Me Lately business and Sharangovich has not done much. If I were Tom Fitzgerald, I would look to trade Sharangovich. I think the Devils will try to do so as well.

The reality is that I do not think Sharangovich fits into the Devils’ plans in the future. If he stayed in a more significant role and was producing at about the level he did in 2021-22, then this is a different conversation. However, we have to live in the reality we have and not the one we choose. As frustrated as I was at the raw deal he was getting in terms of usage, many of the People Who Matter pointed out that Sharangovich really was struggling in 2022-23. Many pointed that while the Devils were more offensive, that Sharangovich’s own offense dipped was a problem. In particular, dr(d)evil pointed out that he was not winning as many pucks, he was losing them more often, and his shots went astray. The data backs up the latter point. Given that Sharangovich’s shot is one of his assets, missing or getting stuffed more is an issue. And losing pucks and not winning so many pucks is an issue when the Devils forwards are being asked to play an up-tempo style with defensemen activating. I have come around more to those criticisms as the season went on. I would not be shocked if the coaching staff identified the same issues earlier and sought to limit the damage than hope Sharangovich works it out and risk taking damage along the way.

With that same staff largely returning and Sharangovich now 25 years old, I doubt Sharangovich will be able to return to the form of his last two seasons. To that end, I think the best path forward would be for the Devils to try to see what they can get in trading the player. If they truly do not think he fits in to their future plans (and I do not think they do), then the right move would be to either move him before he has to be qualified on June 30 or qualify him, re-sign him at about the same cap hit as he had in his past contract ($2 to $2.25 million, no more than two seasons), and try to move him later during the 2023-24 season. I do think other teams would want a winger with a good shot that can kill penalties. I do think retaining him at his current cap hit or a little higher is fair value. It might have to be in a package with someone else, but the Devils may get a legitimate asset in return. This way Sharangovich can play somewhere where he can attain a more significant forward role and the Devils can put in someone who does figure into their future plans.

Final Thoughts & Your Take

As I wrote in the beginning, a lot can happen within three seasons. It was not that long ago that many were hailing Sharangovich as part of the rising core of the Devils that included Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Jesper Bratt. That group of young players also seemingly had Janne Kuokkanen (bought out), Ty Smith (traded for John Marino), Will Butcher (traded for future considerations), Mikhail Maltsev (traded for Ryan Graves), and Jesper Boqvist (he’s a guy) among others. The point is that team management may identify a core but the picture is constantly shifting depending on the team and player performances. While the Devils emerged in this past season, Sharangovich was not a part of that. While the pick was absolutely a success, that does not mean the Devils have to retain him for long. As such, I think a change in scenery would be good for Sharangovich to possibly shine elsewhere and the Devils can find another winger to fill in his spot in the middle of the forward group.

Now that you know my take on Yegor Sharangovich, what he did, and what I would do with him as well as what I think the Devils will do, I want to know your take. Do you think Sharangovich fits into the Devils’ future plans? Would you try to trade him before he has to be re-signed? If he does need to be re-signed, how much would you re-sign him for? What do you think of what Sharangovich has done for the Devils in his first three NHL seasons? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Sharangovich in the comments. Thank you for reading.