The New Jersey Devils are in desperate need of scoring depth and adding talent to their roster. They finished the 2018-19 regular season in the bottom third of the league in goals for (219), goals for per game (2.67), and power play percentage (17.1%).
With 11 picks in the upcoming 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Devils should be able to add some talent to their prospect pool, but they need to upgrade their immediate roster if they plan on returning to the Stanley Cup playoffs and convincing their star player Taylor Hall to sign a contract extension.
One unrestricted free agent who might be able to help in that department is 27-year-old forward Ryan Dzingel.
Ryan Dzingel Should Spark Devils Interest
Dzingel finished the 2018-19 season with a career-best 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists) in 78 games with the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets. His 56 points would have led the injury-plagued Devils and his 4.4 goals above replacement would have ranked fifth among Devils forwards.
Over the course of his four-year career, Dzingel has compiled a total of 138 points in 268 games, mostly with a declining Senators organization. He is capable of playing all three forward positions, including center, where he’s recorded a 40% career faceoff percentage.
What Will the Devils Have to Pay?
According to Evolving Wild, Dzingel is projected to sign a deal in the range of four years with an average annual cap hit of $4,334,866. With over $35.6 million in projected cap space and the salary cap set to rise to $83 million for the 2019-20 season, this is affordable for the Devils. They can bring in a player like Dzingel and still afford other additions as well as lock up some of their young core long-term.
When you look at Dzingel’s underlying numbers, an AAV of $4.3 million might even be a bargain. His shot and chance generation numbers have been on a steady incline over the past three seasons, and it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that he had a career year in 2018-19, and should continue to produce at a similar rate through his prime.
Where Does Dzingel Fit?
Dzingel is a speedy forward with a great shot and vision who thrives in transition with the puck on his stick. Even though he can play both wing and center, it seems like his skill set would make him an ideal winger to play alongside Nico Hischier and Hall. This would allow the Devils to shift Kyle Palmieri down to the second line to play alongside Jack Hughes (if they draft him) and Jesper Bratt.
Realistically, Dzingel can help the Devils wherever they need him to play, whether it’s in their top six or the bottom six.
The Case Against Signing Dzingel
Despite coming off back-to-back seasons in which he scored over 20 goals, Dzingel’s disappointing postseason
He finished the 2018-19 Stanley Cup playoffs with just one point in nine games through the first two rounds with the Blue Jackets and was a healthy scratch in Game 2 of their second-round series against the Boston Bruins. In 24 total playoff games, Dzingel has recorded just four points (3 goals, 1 assist).
There’s also the risk of committing to Dzingel beyond his prime. A four-year deal will keep him under contract until age 31, which isn’t ideal for a team like the Devils who are already committed to veterans like Travis Zajac and Andy Greene.
Perhaps the biggest concern with Dzingel is that he tends to ignore his best asset, which is his extremely accurate shot. When things aren’t going well he sometimes stops shooting and tries to turn into a pass-first play-maker. This leads to long slumps and streaky point production at best.
To Sign or Not to Sign Dzingel?
Dzingel could be hit or miss. If he makes upwards up $4.3 million per year like he’s projected to, he would be a steal for the Devils if he can find the back of the net 20 or more times but would be overpriced if he cannot.