NHL Contract Numbers: Devils Get Size and Experience in Brett Pesce, But at a Big Price

NHL Contract Numbers: Devils Get Size and Experience in Brett Pesce, But at a Big Price

The contract

The New Jersey Devils are signing defenseman Brett Pesce to a six-year, $5.5 million contract.

Brett Pesce signing with the Devils was the worst-kept secret of this offseason. It’s no surprise that he ended up there on July 1. That’s even more true after the team sent John Marino to Utah in the draft.

Pesce is $1.1 million more expensive and for that extra price the Devils get a defenseman with a little more length and experience – two vital qualities that will help their goals of contention. They also get a player who is likely more formidable without the puck and who provides a little more offensive power. Pesce feels like a clear upgrade with a plus-3 Net Rating, a five-goal differential over Marino (though that’s coming off a down year). New coach Sheldon Keefe will love Pesce, a player the Leafs have long reportedly been interested in when Keefe was there.

The key for New Jersey was eliminating redundancies on the blue line. Marino was an excellent puck mover and a real asset in that regard, but the Devils already have that skill set in spades. They needed someone who was more solid and could defend passes well in the zone — something Pesce was a big improvement over Marino.

While Pesce appears to be a good fit, the contract could be better. A cap hit of $5.5 million is fine for where he is now, but a six-year term pushes his contract value back to $4.9 million. It feels like the Devils haven’t gotten a win on term or salary here, leaving the team $600,000 per year short on the deal. No point in the deal has crystal clear value either; it just goes from fine in the first half to potential problem in the second half.

For a free agent in a high-demand market (right-shot defensemen), that’s not terrible; it’s a mistake a potential contender sometimes has to make to get the right guy. Pesce is the right guy and will make the Devils better, but the contract would have been more attractive at $5 million a pop.

Contract level: B-
Fit: a

(Photo: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)