Newark, NJ – Despite what you might have heard, New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald “doesn’t believe” in a salary hierarchy.
It was a long and winding road to get Jesper Bratt locked in with the Devils for eight years. It could have happened last summer, however, Bratt bet on himself and opted for a one-year contract in order to make more money this summer. The rumor was the Swedish forward was looking for an average annual value north of $8 million. That would have priced Bratt above Jack Hughes’ pay grade.
Instead, Bratt came in at $63 million spread out over eight years. That’s an AAV of $7.875 million, just a hair below Hughes’ total sum and AAV. Yet, Fitzgerald remains firm that it’s just a coincidence. The Devils GM claims he doesn’t weigh his contrast against each other.
“I don’t think it’s something I wholeheartedly believe in,” Fitzgerald explained on the latest Jeff Marek Show. “They’re all independent contractors when it comes to contracts, right? They’re all independently doing their thing with their own comps. When we look at internally, where we are structured-wise, it’s easy to say, ‘this guy is gonna be under Jack. He’s gonna be under Jesper.’ There is a domino effect for sure. But, at the end of the day, they’re all independent contractors. They negotiate their own contract, not because someone has “X” against the cap. It’s not only a cap world, but it’s a comp world. Everybody’s comped to somebody with a price tag that may be higher, and we may think it’s lower because everybody has their own comp.”
“I just think when we’re team building, that’s what I’m trying to do here, we’re team building against a hard cap. It’s nice to get young players like Jack and Jesper right now tied up for the next seven or eight years. Nico’s coming up. I’m working on Timo right now. But what I will say is they’re all different. Not one affects the other. ”
It’s an interesting theory, especially when you look at Dougie Hamilton’s contract. Hamilton signed a seven-year, $63 million deal in July 2021. His grand total matches Bratt’s and comes in at $1 million below Hughes’, however, his AAV is $9 million as opposed to Hughes’ $8 million. New Jersey signed Hamilton in free agency. It’s not uncommon for teams to overpay on the open market. However, Hamilton’s 2022-23 has made his contract look just right thus far.
The biggest question regarding this supposed salary hierarchy will be what number Meier signs for. Meier scored 40 goals and 66 points between the Devils and San Jose Sharks last season. Fitzgerald says he doesn’t weigh one contract against another, but we can. In comparison, Nick Suzuki also posted 66 points. His cap hit is the same as Bratt’s, $7.875 million. However, GMs buy goals, and again, Meier scored 40 of them.
According to ESPNs Kevin Weekes, Meier was looking for north of $9 million in San Jose. Perhaps his camp is still around that number and with the cost of inflation, he could very well be worth it. Kirill Kaprizov scored 40 goals, but 75 points last season. Kaprizov missed 15 games, however, Fitzgerald may be able to negotiate with Meier to come in between Kaprizov’s $9 million AAV and Suzuki’s $7.875.
It’s truly intriguing to see what Meier’s final numbers will look like. It will seemingly answer whether or not a salary hierarchy exists within the Devils’ cap. For now, Hughes remains the richest in the locker room. We’ll see how long that lasts.
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