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Where the Devils Salary Cap Stands Post Free Agency

After spending nearly $20 million in the offseason thus far, the Devils still have some money to play with. However, there is still business to attend to.

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New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils left wing Tomas Tatar is congratulated for his goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning by Dawson Mercer (91) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

The New Jersey Devils made waves this offseason that have media and fans alike predicting a bounce back season in 2024-25. Not only is the consensus that the Devils will rank near the top of the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference, but many believe they are once again poised to be a legitimate playoff threat. This comes after the Devils spent the majority of their near $20 million in cap space this offseason. So, where does New Jersey stand now that they’ve made some serious improvements?

It seems like forever ago, but after Sheldon Keefe was named head coach, Fitzgerald got the Devils’ summer kicked by acquiring goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Part of the reason why the deal didn’t happen back in February when it was nearly complete was due to money retained. However, this time around, the two sides were able to consummate a deal and thus, Markstrom is the Devils’ No.1 goaltender.

“It’s funny we haven’t talked about Jacob [Markstrom] it’s been a while,” Fitzgerald explained following free agency. “But you know, it was important to me to obviously address that need to build a tandem with Jake Allen which I think everybody would agree he’s done a fine job there. But the money was important in getting them at a discount so I could do other things which was very important. So like I’ve said in other interviews, you know, working with Calgary Flames this time around, we both wanted to get a deal done.”

The Devils received Markstrom at 31.25% of his salary retained. So, instead of paying for Markstroms full $6 million salary, the Devils are only on the hook for $4.125 million for the next two seasons.

Between Markstrom and Jake Allen, the Devils are paying $6.05 million between the two netminders — a small percentage of their total salary cap at 6.9% — after Fitzgerald was also able to get the Montreal Canadiens to retain 50% of Allen’s salary as well.

Before we made it to free agency, Fitzgerald extended defenseman Nick DeSimone on a one-way ticket for the league minimum salary, $775K. The one-way deal for DeSimone all but solidified Brendan Smith’s departure in free agency, thus signing a deal with the Dallas Stars.

A trade on the second day of the 2024 NHL Draft between the Devils and Vegas Golden Knights saw Alexander Holtz and Akira Schmid uprooted to Vegas in exchange for Paul Cotter and a draft pick. The move gave the Devils a small bump in the salary cap, adding $119,167 to their overall cap.

The following day, Johnathan Kovacevic fell on Fitzgerald’s lap, another large, mobile defender who is only costing the Devils just above league-minimum at $766,667. The 26-year-old defenseman has just one year remaining on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

That brought us right up to free agency in which Fitzgerald spent a pretty penny on the first day. For a while, it looked like the Devils were the leading candidates to sign former Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault. New Jersey was even in the market for former Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. However, after the two forwards called each other, they decided to both head to the Nashville Predators.

That left Fitzgerald in the market for a top-six forward, but not before he addressed some other needs.

After Stamkos and Marchessault were off the table, the Devils inked Brett Pesce to a six-year deal worth $5.5 million annually. Brenden Dillon quickly followed on a three-year deal worth $4 million annually. Stefan Noesen followed Pesce from Carolina back to New Jersey where he played two seasons between 2017 & 2019. Fitzgerald signed him for the low cost of $2.75 million. And on the second day of free agency, the Devils brought back Tomas Tatar at $1.8 million for one year.

A couple of minor deals for Mike Hardman and the returning Colton White are on the books as well, but those are two-way deals and their salaries are tucked away in the minors.

Fitzgerald did quite well spending a total of $14.05 million on his major acquisitions in free agency. Add the $1,788,897 already on the books as a result of dead cap space, and the Devils currently have $4,976,103 left to work with.

The Devils’ heavy lifting this offseason is finished. There’s little doubt that New Jersey is returning in 2024-25 a better team after spending just under $20 million starting with the Markstrom acquisition.

Now, the Devils have their restricted free agents to look to with their remaining cap space.

Fitzgerald explained he hadn’t started negotiations with Dawson Mercer and his camp yet, but that was next on his checklist. AFP Analytics projects Mercer on a short-term two-year contract earn a $3,793,680 average annual value. Long-term, Mercer projects to earn a $6,521,182 AAV over six years.

It will certainly be interesting to see where the Devils and Mercer land on AAV as Fitzgerald explained he has a number in mind that will be able to allow the Devils to continue to add down the road when necessary.

“We only have so much money to spend. I like the fact that where we project him to be still gives us flexibility with our cap to continue to accrue with the possibility of adding down the road,” Fitzgerald explained.

Remaining RFA’s the Devils have to address are Nolan Foote, Nico DawsSanteri Hatakka, and the newly acquired Adam Beckman.

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