The Devils on Friday made a start to their offseason an NHL rarity: the sign-and-trade, and one involving their longest-tenured player.
The team announced just the second such transaction in league history — the first being Matthew Tkachuk’s trade to Florida last summer — when they sent Damon Severson to Columbus for the 80th overall pick in the upcoming draft, which had gone from Calgary to Seattle to the Blue Jackets before landing in New Jersey.
Severson, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent, signed an eight-year, $50 million deal, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, that does qualify as eyebrow-raising for a player who mostly played on the Devils’ third pairing last season.
For the Devils, who are coming off their first second-round appearance in over a decade and have a slew of players hitting restricted and unrestricted free agency, the deal is a concession to the reality that keeping everyone will be impossible.
It does, though, open up questions on the right side of their defense, where Severson averaged 19:57 per game last season.
Currently, New Jersey has five defensemen under contract, though Kevin Bahl, a restricted free agent, will presumably return.
Ryan Graves, a lefty, is an unrestricted free agent.
Dougie Hamilton and John Marino will occupy the first and second slots on the right, but the third is a question mark that — at least for the moment — would need to be occupied by either Brendan Smith or Luke Hughes, both lefties.
Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald will need to allot a chunk of a projected $34.2 million in cap space, per CapFriendly, to re-signing star wingers Jesper Bratt and Timo Meier, while the likes of Bahl, Mackenzie Blackwood, Nathan Bastian, Jesper Boqvist, Michael McLeod, and Yegor Sharangovich are restricted free agents as well.
Erik Haula, Tomas Tatar and Miles Wood are set to go to market on July 1 along with Graves.
So this is the first step in what will be a busy offseason.