Finally, the New Jersey Devils have finished their offseason to-do list. Their last move came in the form of Damon Severson’s new contract — a six-year deal worth $25 million which comes out to an AAV of $4.166 million per year. This will be the last major move made by the Devils before the season starts next month and it is a great one to end on.
The Devils lock up their most promising young defenseman for the next six seasons while Severson gets a hefty raise. Additionally, he will be young enough to sign another big contract when this one is up, hopefully with the Devils. So, let’s go into what this deal means and why it is great for both sides.
Shero Made the Right Choice
Throughout the offseason, there were rumors about what kind of contract Severson could sign. Realistically, there were two routes negotiations could have taken. General manager Ray Shero could have offered him a “bridge deal” of two years or a long-term contract. He chose the latter and it was the correct decision.
Obviously, the Devils’ defense has been lacking for quite some time so locking up their best defenseman for the long-term was an absolute must. Why allow Severson’s value to grow over two years and either sign him to a richer contract or lose him to free agency when you can avoid both.
Six years guarantees that Severson will be playing in New Jersey throughout his prime years. A $4.166 million cap hit is very manageable and compares correctly to other defensemen of his caliber around the NHL. Bottom line, this deal needed to happen and it is great value and term for a great player.
Severson Is the New Number One
I have written about this topic before but it is certain now — Severson is the new number one defenseman in New Jersey. That may sound obvious but it did not seem to be the case last season, as Andy Greene and Ben Lovejoy both averaged more minutes than #28. Greene playing that much I can understand, sort of — he is the captain and the team’s best penalty killer at the back end. However, Lovejoy had no business being even close to Severson in minutes played.
Fans can expect that script to flip in 2017-18. Greene has officially passed the torch to Severson. The Devils’ captain has been a solid top-four defender for years but showed some signs of decline last season. Considering he will soon be 35-years old, it doesn’t appear as if that trend will reverse. The changing of the guard has begun for the Devils’ defense.
With a bigger contract comes bigger expectations for Severson but fans should not worry. He was able to post 31 points on an offensively-starved team last season. The additions of Nico Hischier, Marcus Johansson, Drew Stafford and the continued development of Pavel Zacha and John Quenneville makes the Devils’ offense much more skilled than in years past. With more talent up front and more ice team, Severson should be able to rack up more points with ease.
Devils’ Defense Still Needs Work
Even though this is a step in the right direction for the Devils, their work is far from over. If you look around the Metropolitan Division you will see that New Jersey still has the weakest defensive group by far. The additions of Mirco Mueller and Will Butcher could prove to be good moves and this Severson extension certainly qualifies as one, but it is not enough.
I am sure that Shero knows this as well and I am confident he will address it. He has proven to be a superb general manager in both contract negotiations and transactions with other teams. If there is a way to improve this group during the season, you can be sure Shero will snatch it. If not, then I have faith more moves will be made next summer.
Some of the names slotted to hit free agency in 2018 include John Carlson, Tobias Enstrom and Andrej Sustr. It is likely not all of them will be available but any of those three would count as upgrades on the Devils’ blue line. Especially Carlson, who may be hard to retain for the cash-strapped Washington Capitals.
Final Thoughts on Severson’s Contract
If it wasn’t clear already, I am a big fan of this deal. I think it is the right length and has a very manageable cap figure. It places bigger expectations on Severson but he seems up to the challenge. He is set to be the number one defenseman in New Jersey for the next six years and I think it will turn out to be a great investment. Devils fans can toast to one heck of an offseason from Shero and his team. Another offseason like this one will have the Devils fighting for the playoffs in no time.