Jesper Bratt and the New Jersey Devils were finally able to come to terms on a long-term contract this summer. Bratt, his agent Joakim Persson, and Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald hammered out an eight-year, $63 million deal that carries a $7.875 million average annual value. The road to an agreement on a long-term deal wasn’t easy, however. In fact, it felt as though the two sides may have come to a long-term contract in previous summers. That was until the two sides settled for a couple of short-term deals instead. According to the 25-year-old forward, the pressure of short-term contracts was beneficial to Bratt in the long run.
“I always liked the shorter terms,” Bratt explained to Elliott Friedman and Jeff Marek on 32 Thoughts the Podcast. “I liked going into the summer pressuring myself a little more. Knowing, ‘Okay, I have to prove myself. I gotta work harder, I gotta show them how good I am.’ Not being like ‘Oh, I have six more years, I can take a workout off.’ Every day mattered so much that I liked the one and two-year deals. I kind of liked the pressure of having the ‘prove yourself’ deal.”
Devils fans could see Bratt’s ascension within the Devils organization fairly quickly. As a former sixth-round draft pick in 2016, it only took Bratt one year to step in as a full-time NHLer skating in 74 games during the 2017-18 season registering 35 points as a rookie.
Bratt remained a 30-plus point player through the remainder of his entry-level contract. He and his camp wanted to sign a long-term deal with the Devils right away. However, New Jersey had other ideas.
Bratt inked a two-year deal for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons. It was in his age-23 season when Bratt really burst onto the scene. The 2021-22 season for New Jersey was one where you could really see the core of the Devils developing on the right trajectory. Bratt led the team in points with 73, Jack Hughes was on pace for a 94-point campaign before an injury ended his season, and Nico Hischier reached a then-career-high 60 points. After leading New Jersey on the scoresheet for the season, a long-term marriage to the Devils was Bratt’s desire. Even though that didn’t quite happen, Bratt knew how to get there.
“Obviously we were talking long-term deals last summer,” Bratt explained. “When that didn’t work out, (my agent) came to me and said, ‘What do you think about a one-year deal?’ I said ’I think it’s great. I get to show even more of what I’ve got. I get to work even harder and have that pressure every day to be the best version of myself. Not get into the area of where I’m too comfortable.’ That sometimes can happen to a young guy signing (long term).”
Bratt bet on himself again in the 2022-23 season and it paid off. The Stockholm, Sweden native started the season with an 11-game point streak that helped jump-start the Devils breakout year. In those 11 games, Bratt scored five goals and 17 points. The Swedish forward ended the 2022-23 season matching his 73 points from 2021-22, scoring his first hat-trick along the way and breaking the 30-goal plateau for the first time in his career.
Although he lacked security, that was a motivator for Bratt. The Devils forward remained in the right mindset to achieve his long-term goals, never wavering from his process. Instead, he saw each short-term contract as an opportunity. Now, thanks to the process he went through each summer, he knows what it’s going to take to be a better version of himself year after year. Even with the security of a long-term contract.
“I’m happy I got to experience a couple of years of having that pressure,” Bratt said. “Now that the eight-year deal has come around, I know what it means. I know the work that has to be put in every day. I said to the media, ‘I don’t really see this as an eight-year deal, I see it as eight one-year deals. This is the only year that matters.’ It’s still the same pressure, still the same drive having the thought that next year I have to redo this, I gotta re-do my contract, and show that I’m better and better each year.”