Welcome to New Jersey Devils News & Rumors, a weekly segment that will be released every Friday this season. Since our last edition, the Devils’ winning streak came to a controversial end on Nov. 23 when three goals were disallowed against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
New Jersey remains at the top of the Metropolitan Division with a 16-4-0 record and a six-point advantage over the New York Islanders, who rank second. In an informal recent NHL Awards survey, the Devils were represented in virtually every category, with Lindy Ruff as the favorite for the Jack Adams, Nico Hischier earning nods for the Selke Trophy, Fabian Zetterlund entering the Calder Trophy conversation, and both Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Siegenthaler earning recognition for the Norris Trophy.
Jesper Bratt leads the team with 24 points in 20 games. If he keeps it up, maybe he’ll find himself in the Hart Trophy conversation. On Aug. 3, he signed a one-year contract worth $5,450,000, which means general manager (GM) Tom Fitzgerald will once again try to lock up his young star long-term.
Fitzgerald Begins Talks with Bratt’s Agent
This week, James Nichols of The Fourth Period had a phone interview with Fitzgerald and discussed Bratt’s future. The GM’s goal remains the same: he wants to keep the 24-year-old in New Jersey.
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“Discussions conveniently have started, you know, with a hello to his agent,” Fitzgerald told Nichols. “Actually, it was (Monday) night we sat together just to go through some things and what we’ll get going. I just don’t want this to be a distraction to the player. You know, as we go along, we know how we feel about him, and we want to tie him up long-term. We hope the feeling’s mutual.”
It is worth noting that Bratt can’t sign a new deal until Jan. 1 because he is on a one-year contract. Nothing formal can happen, but it makes sense that the two parties would be talking and working toward a resolution.
Updates on New Jersey’s Injured Players
The last time Ondrej Palat suited up for a game was on Oct. 24. He has been sidelined with a groin injury and successfully underwent surgery on Nov. 1. Ruff told the media this week that Palat is progressing and has been on the ice in a limited capacity.
The goaltender’s last start was on Nov. 3 against the Edmonton Oilers, playing about half the game before he left with an injury. Days later, the organization announced Mackenzie Blackwood would miss three to six weeks with an MCL sprain. Like Palat, he has been on the ice in a limited capacity and keeps improving.
Catching Up With the Comets
The Utica Comets had a 2-1-0 record last week, splitting a home-and-home series with the Rochester Americans and beating the Belleville Senators 3-2. Brian Pinho and Andreas Johnsson are tied for the team lead with 11 points each, and defenseman Nikita Okhotiuk scored his first goal of the season on Nov. 18 and has three points over six games.
A few transactions took place last week, including reassigning Alexander Holtz and Kevin Bahl to the Comets, and both were in the lineup on Nov. 23. The young Swede played on the first line alongside Johnsson and Ryan Schmelzer and collected his first assist of the season. The 6-foot-6 blueliner was paired with former second-overall pick Simon Nemec and finished the game with two shots on goal. Tyler Wotherspoon, 29, was recalled to the Devils and was a healthy scratch against the Maple Leafs. He played 13 games with the Comets this season and collected one assist.
That’s all for this week’s News & Rumors. Be sure to check back next week to find out the latest happenings surrounding the Devils.
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Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.