I addressed both #10 (Jon Merrill’s immediate future and this weekend’s NHL Draft) and #9 topics (succession plan for Lou Lamoriello) earlier, which now brings me to the #8 question for the New Jersey Devils this offseason, the future of unrestricted free agent to be Bryce Salvador.
There weren’t many better “feel-good” stories this past season in the National Hockey League than Bryce Salvador, who came back from missing an entire season with a cochlear concussion to play in all 82 games this past regular season, as well as all 24 playoff games for the Devils. Not only did Salvador establish himself as the solid physical defensive presence in his own end, but he added a rare scoring touch in the playoffs as well. After a regular season that produced just nine assists, Salvador found a nice scoring touch in the postseason, scoring four goals and adding ten assists to finish second overall in postseason scoring for a defenseman. Not only, did the Devils win all four games Salvador scored a goal, they were an amazing 10-0 when he scored a point in a game (He had four multi-point games).
Because of the success Salvador had in the playoffs, he may have priced himself off the team. Since the Devils currently have six defensemen under contract for next season (Anton Volchenkov, Marek Zidlicky, Henrik Tallinder, Andy Greene, Mark Fayne and Adam Larsson), as well as some prospects like Eric Gelinas and Alexander Urbom knocking on the door, you have to wonder whether it makes sense to bring back a 36-year old defenseman. Despite his great “team-first” mentality, I think it is best for the team (and its salary cap) to let Salvador see what type of offers are out there in the open market and let Salvador maximize what might amount to his last NHL contract.
Another factor against the return of Salvador is the “35+ factor” from the CBA. Assuming the rules carry over to the new CBA, if Salvador was given a multi-year contract, his salary would count against the salary cap even if his play tailed off to the point the team wouldn’t want him on the roster. I find it hard to believe there isn’t a team out there that will offer him a multi-year deal at a rate close, if not above his current $2.9 million salary. I just don’t think it makes fiscal sense for the Devils to pay that out, with the types of players they have on the current roster, and the players they anticipate having on the roster in the next couple of seasons.
If I had to guess where Salvador will end up, my first guess is one of his former teams, the St. Louis Blues might look to sign him. It’s also possible the Manitoba native could draw some interest from his hometown Winnipeg Jets, or others like the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers or New York Islanders. Basically, any team that can use a good defensive defenseman with great leadership skills and a locker room presence. Take the salary cap out of the picture, and there would probably be about 25 of the 30 teams that would have interest in Salvador. As a Devils fan, I truly respect the body of work Salvador provided to the team and will miss his toughness in front of the Devils net and on their penalty kill, and generally making it more difficult for opponents in general.
COMING SOON: Off-season question #7
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