Earlier today, the New Jersey Devils signed another bottom-six forward. However, unlike Chris Tierney, this one may be more for the Devils. The Devils signed Tomas Nosek - also known as Tomáš Nosek - to a one season, one-way contract worth $1 million. Nosek was a Bruin for the last two seasons, a Golden Knight for the previous four, and started off in the NHL with Detroit - although he largely played for Grand Rapids in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Given the one-way nature of his contract, I would not expect a return to the ‘A’ for Mr. Nosek.
I note where he played as the Devils’ own announcement highlighted Nosek’s “extensive playoff experience.” He did play for playoff teams in the past six seasons, yielding 52 appearances in the postseason. I do not know how much the Devils need that anymore or how that is something to tout since Nosek only played more than 10 playoff games in 2018 and none more than 8 since then. Better that, I suppose, then pointing out that, say, Nosek has never cracked 20 points in a NHL season. (I know he was on pace to do so in 2021 but he did not get there in the shortened season.) Something has to be highlighted. Playoff games were chosen.
This is mostly because Nosek’s assets are defensive and therefore not that easy to highlight. Corey Szjnader’s microstats from last season led to his comment that Nosek is a “get us out of the defensive zone specialist.” hile he is listed as a left winger, Nosek has taken faceoffs and has proven to be capable. Since joining the B’s his usage at the dot went up from 387 in 2021 to 671 in 2021-22 and 597 last season. More importantly, he won most of those draws with an impressive 354-243 record last season for a winning percentage of 59.3%. Nosek has also been a regular penalty killer in his six full seasons in the NHL with an average of at least 1:17 shorthanded per game and coming off a 2:23 per game average with Boston last season. Boston’s PK was real good in terms of on-ice rates and Nosek’s 6.67 xGA/60 was one of the best among PK forwards in the NHL last season per Natural Stat Trick. Per Natural Stat Trick, Nosek’s 5-on-5 on-ice rate stats with Boston last season were bad (e.g. a 46.8% xGF% and a 44.95% CF? Bro.), but they were much better in his first season with the B’s and in his four with Las Vegas. He may not be a drain on a team that looks to crush it at 5-on-5. There is plenty to like here - but little of it is going to jump off the page or be something to write big headlines about.
Nosek is a solid bottom-six defensive forward who can play left wing and center. For $1 million and one season, there is little reason to complain about the signing. I am a little concerned about his reliability as he has missed at 7-16 games over the last four full seasons he could play in. I do not know whether that was due to scratches or injuries, though. That does mean there will be some opportunities for what has now become a crowded forward group in New Jersey. Which is notable as the forward group at the bottom end of the lineup is now crowded. Which is a combination of smaller concerns.
For one, the team just signed Chris Tierney a few days ago as center depth. Nosek is arguably a better player than Tierney. If the Devils see Nosek is a fill-in center option, then Tierney may need to have a great camp to avoid going to Utica to start next season. Which may happen anyway. For another, consider some of the Comets. Nolan Foote has been talked up by GM Tom Fitzgerald as someone being developed. With Nosek - who plays left wing and has hundreds of NHL game experience - Foote’s goal of making the New Jersey roster is now harder. While Alexander Holtz, Tyce Thompson, and Graeme Clarke had work to do to make the team - and in the case of Holtz, a not-so-offensive fourth line is not ideal for him - the work must increase. In the case of the recently acquired Shane Bowers, Kyle Criscuolo, and Justin Dowling, they just got moved down the depth chart further. As a third concern, it makes me wonder why the Devils got Nosek when they have Curtis Lazar as an experienced, defensive winger already to join a bottom six that already has Erik Haula, Ondrej Palat, Michael McLeod, and Nathan Bastian.
That stated, those are minor issues compared with the potential gains. While I do not care much for his 52 games of playoff experience, Nosek is very much a viable NHL player as he turns 31 in September. He is not becoming a tweener like Tierney appears to be. With this signing, there will be more actual competition for roster spots towards the bottom of the forward group in New Jersey. No one like Foote or Thompson or Clarke or Holtz will need to be penciled in - and that is a good problem for coaches to have. Given if/when injuries happen, the Devils will not necessarily need to hold their breath and hope a Comet can play above their level to just to keep the roster viable. Nosek will provide cover in the same way Tierney and Curtis Lazar can do. The Devils’ and Comets’ biggest issue among the skaters became center depth going into this offseason. With Nosek being able to play center plus Tierney, Bowes, Criscuolo, and Dowling, that issue has been fully addressed for both New Jersey and Utica. Lastly, between Nosek and Lazar would rather have Nosek take draws in a pinch or as a fill-in instead of Lazar. Better that the Devils get Nosek now instead of hoping to get a veteran on a PTO and see whether he has some gas left in the tank during training camp.
Ultimately, this is a fine signing. It is cheap, it makes the Devils a bit better, and while he is one-dimensional, Nosek is still pretty good at that one dimension. It is also a signing that Jared must like because he suggested Nosek as a signing a week ago. So there’s that too.
Now I want to know what you think of this signing. What do you think of Tomas Nosek? What do you expect him to do in New Jersey? Can he be a regular in New Jersey or will he have to fend off a number of Comets looking for a roster spot in the Fall? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this signing in the comments. Thank you for reading.