The New Jersey Devils had three arbitration hearings scheduled for August. In order to avoid a hearing, a contract must be concluded between the player and the team. Tyce Thompson, who was scheduled to attend a hearing Aug. 11, re-signed a minimum two-year NHL contract on Aug. 2. Jesper Bratt, who was scheduled to attend a hearing on August 3, was resigned just before the hearing. began on August 3 for a $5.45 million season. The last arbitration hearing remaining on the schedule was for Miles Wood on August 6. The Devils filed for arbitration for Wood; not the opposite. Now, this hearing is not taking place. The Devils announced tonight that Miles Wood and the team have agreed to a season worth $3.2 million.
I thought team arbitration was a way for the Devils to argue for a lesser contract next season. Wood earned $3.5 million in salary last season. Through team-elected refereeing, the referee could award a deal worth 85% of that. He ended up taking less anyway aside from a referee. Not much savings, which is justified considering Wood was injured all last season and only played 3 games. It remains to be seen if Wood is fully healthy and can return to his former level of performance. It’s clearly not a contract based on last season but on past seasons. Even so, it’s a big chunk of money for a third/fourth line winger.
Arguably, Wood’s peak season was in the pandemic-shortened 2021 season. In 55 games, Wood has scored 17 goals and 25 points. If he was able to sustain that appearance and production rate over a full 82-game season, that would be 81 games, 25 goals and 37 points. It would have been a career year for the winger. His on-ice rates in 2021 weren’t that good but not that bad, according to Natural Stat Trick. Certainly better than his terrible 2019-20 season, but behind his 2017-18 campaign. 5-on-5 numbers matter more to Wood because his special teams work is often a secondary role on a power play. He can fill in as needed if players are not available. But he was never chosen to be part of a higher unit unless necessary.
The issues with Wood come from how he plays the game and how it is used. His even-strength ice time per game has always been in the 11-13 minute range. Wood was and is a winger in the last six. Wood is quick to chase pucks, so much so that his line often throws the puck deep for him to chase. Wood isn’t all that quick when turning and backing up, although he’s made more consistent efforts in recent seasons to at least get to the Devils’ zone. The 6’2”, 195-pound timber is lauded for his draws (which he does, 44 is second in the past three seasons and he’s missed nearly all of 2021-22) and his toughness; although that also means he takes his fair share of calls (37 penalties overall, third in the last three seasons) and tenacity is one of those things that people like to talk about as being important, but that no one in the NHL considers important. (See: Mason Geertsen.) Wood shoots the puck quite often; but he tends to shoot from anywhere on offense instead of looking for a better place or situation to shoot. Considering he’s 26, Wood is unlikely to change. Considering he is indeed coming off of hip surgery, there are real questions as to whether he can play like he did. That’s not to say Wood is a maquis; more that he is a limited player. He’s the kind of player you put on a third or fourth line and that’s exactly how the Devils have used him since he burst into the NHL. And they will continue to use it that way.
Miles Wood and the Devils avoid arbitration and that’s good. The wood is apparently very popular with the Devils and that’s good. And it’s a one-year contract, so if Wood fails, he can be let go on the open market. Still, that’s a lot of money for a guy who will only be in the last six. They’re giving him $3.2 million for 2022-23 to see if he still has it at 27 (his birthday is Sept. 13), after hip surgery, and, ideally, repeat his 2021 season. If not, it could very well be processed or left in the market. We will see how this bet plays out.
As for the cap, the Devils are pretty much capped at the moment. CapFriendly has the Devils at $73,735 in cap space right now. Of course, it’s with Jonathan Bernier who is not on the long-term injured list. If it is true that he is unable to play, then he can be placed on LTIR and that would use $4.125 million. That’s more than enough to take care of Fabian Zetterlund and leave room for calls and maybe an unexpected move that pops up. And that’s about it for the Devils this offseason: sign Zetterlund and get ready for training camp and preseason.
I believe there is another option: a buyout. A second buyout window now opens for the Devils with all of their arbitration cases settled. It might also relieve the clog. It’s not often used, but we’ll see.
What do you think of this new contract for Wood? Do you think Wood will live up to a $3.2 million contract in 2022-23? Do you think Wood will be a devil by May 2023? When do you think Zetterlund would be sorted? Please leave your responses and other thoughts on this signing for Wood. Thanks for the reading.