At this point, it sounds like the New Jersey Devils are in the mix if someone is available. According to a report, the Devils are interested in free-agent defenseman Ethan Bear.
Bear underwent successful shoulder surgery on June 15th, 2023 after suffering an injury playing for Team Canada at the 2023 IIHF World Championships. Before his injury, Bear scored three goals and 16 points while averaging 18:32 in ice time through 61 games in the 2022-23 regular season.
The right-shot defenseman didn’t receive a qualifying offer from Vancouver following his injury, therefore he became an unrestricted free agent.
On the latest TSN Insider Trading, Chris Johnston spoke about the rising interest in the free-agent defenseman.
“He’s getting very close and the fact that it is only going to cost you the cap space it takes to get him, I think it’s helped drive some interest here on the 26-year-old defenseman,” Johnston explained. “He’s going to allow teams on Monday of next week to come to Kelowna if anyone wants to get a look at him on the ice and see him go through his paces after having offseason shoulder surgery. He was injured playing for Team Canada at the World Hockey Championship last year. He’s had a long recovery from that shoulder surgery, but he’s getting close.”
On a far smaller scale, this is the Patrick Kane sweeps all over again. In addition to the Devils showing interest, Johnston cited the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, & Pittsburgh Penguins as teams with interest.
The right-shot defenseman is known as a “physical, reasonably mobile, (and) strong in-zone defender, and can move the puck,” according to Elite Prospects’ J.D. Burke who told Postmedia.
The 26-year-old defenseman has seen his ups and downs in the NHL, however, he’s seen success in top-four roles. It certainly makes sense for GM Tom Fitzgerald to throw his hat in the ring for Bear. He’ll just cost you dollars instead of assets.
The Devils just lost Dougie Hamilton’s services. Due to the emergence of Simon Nemec, New Jersey doesn’t need to seek a stylistic replacement. Instead, they’re focused on a “stabilizing defenseman” that will help keep pucks out of their own net. To this date, the Devils currently own $1,289,987 in accrued cap space. However, Fitzgerald could gain some flexibility should Hamilton’s $9 million cap hit be transferred to long-term injured reserve.
This is certainly one to keep an eye on.