An Overview of the Eleven Impending Restricted Free Agents from the New Jersey Devils

Adam Henrique and Andrei Loktionov are two of the 11 RFAs the Devils will have to deal with this summer. How much the team can try and spend on keeping David Clarkson may be driven by those two. - USA TODAY Sports

The New Jersey Devils have eleven impending restricted free agents this summer. While most are and will remain in the minors, it's all money the Devils have to commit before dealing with unrestricted free agents.

There are two types of free agents in the NHL. The first are unrestricted free agents (UFA), who can speak to whomever and for however they want once they are able to do so. The second are restricted free agents (RFAs); usually younger players whose rights can be easily kept with a qualifying offer before negotiating a full deal. Good management isn't just trying not to overpay too much on the open market for UFAs but it's also in keeping the RFAs on reasonable deals.

On the surface, it looks like the New Jersey Devils have a large spending window for next season. Even with the salary cap coming down to $64.3 million, the Devils have approximately $24.9 million of cap space heading into this summer's free agency period. As of this writing and according to CapGeek, there are only two teams have more space on the books: the Islanders and Jets. Unlike those teams, the Devils have 14 regular players under contract and depending on who they can call up, it can be higher. They already have two goalies and they have six defensemen, which can become as much as eight should the team call up Alexander Urbom and Eric Gelinas. The real roster need is up front and only there. The Devils only have six forwards on the books for next season: Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, the CBGB line, and Krystofer Barch. With a lot of space in the lineup and under the cap, it looks like that New Jersey is in a prime situation to make a big splash this summer.

Looks can be deceiving. For one, it's not known what budgetary limits the Devils will be operating under for next season. We're not going to know. They spent just under $60 million last season so it's possible they can spend around there again. However, those RFAs are another restriction to how much the Devils can really afford on UFAs. They need to be qualified at a minimum and in most cases, they'll command more than the amount needed to qualify a player.

The Devils have 11 players between New Jersey and Albany that are pending RFAs this summer. It's a motley crew ranging from established regulars like Adam Henrique to minor leaguers like Jean-Sebastian Berube. The good news is that the qualifying offer itself isn't all that expensive. The amount of the qualifying offer is based on the player's base salary, signing bonuses or other bonuses don't count. Anything under $660,000 requires an offer worth 110% of their base salary, anything between $660,000 and $1 million commands an offer worth 105% of their salary, and anything over is requires an offer worth 100% of their previous salary. Here's a list based on CapGeek's qualifying offer calculator as far as how much it will be worth:

RFA

9/15 Age

2013 Cap

Base Salary

Min. QO

D'Agostini

26

$1,650,000

$1,800,000

$1,800,000

Josefson

22

$900,000

$810,000

$850,500

Loktionov

23

$816,666

$575,000

$632,500

Henrique

23

$854,166

$525,000

$577,500

Kinkaid

24

$900,000

$575,000

$632,500

Tedenby

23

$875,000

$787,500

$826,875

Sislo

25

$700,000

$525,000

$575,500

Pesonen

25

$700,000

$525,000

$577,500

Hoeffel

24

$875,000

$600,000

$660,000

Kelly

24

$666,666

$525,000

$577,500

Berube

22

$531,667

$525,000

$577,500

Sum

$9,469,165

$8,287,875

If the Devils want to keep everyone at their qualifying offer, it'll cost them a sum total less than their combined cap hit. The cap hit is even smaller than the sum total since most of these players were not on the Devils last season. Those players in Albany - or sometimes in the case of Jean-Sebastien Berube case, Trenton - didn't count. Only Adam Henrique was with New Jersey for the whole season, so only his cap hit stayed with the whole 2013 season. Real money does get paid out, but all but Matt D`Agostini were on two-way contracts so those in the minors got a lot less than their NHL contracts. Nevertheless, it's still a chunk of the budget committed just to keep the player's rights and that means some of that money needs to be kept in consideration when re-signing impending UFAs or planning to sign new ones.

That chunk will be much larger than the chart indicates. The sum total of salaries for 2013-14 will be much more than the total of the qualifying offers. At a minimum, Henrique, D'Agostini, Andrei Loktionov, and Jacob Josefon are definitely NHL players. They will likely be paid as such. There's no way Henrique is going to make anything less than seven figures per year. Loktionov and Josefson may also get to that level. The Devils may not want to qualify D'Agostini at $1.8 million but they could not qualify him and then pick him up as a UFA for a little less. Those raises will raise the group and the cap will increase should the other players get called up. As a result, those are the more important RFAs for the Devils to keep and those will command more attention.

The other seven aren't to just be ignored. For many of them, their next contract will dictate where they fit in the team's plans. Keith Kinkaid is #3 on the goalie depth chart and will get a great chance at the NHL in the following season; he could get a decent salary. Mattias Tedenby has had chance after chance to break into the lineup and has faltered. How much longer will he last in the organization? Does he even stick around or does he go back to Europe? The Devils picked up Harri Pesonen last summer based on his play in the SM-Liiga. They gave him a decent look as an energy player in four games in 2013. Is that enough to convince him to stay and if so, how much will it take? Mike Sislo, Mike Hoeffel, Dan Kelly, and Jean-Sebastian Berube haven't received a taste of the NHL yet; they all have largely been minor league players. If the Devils think any of them may have a future, then what they get will show that out. Of course, they could just be kept in the minors on smaller salaries.

Personally, among the seven, I feel only Kinkaid and maybe Pesonen really has something to offer to the next level. Kinkaid will get his opportunity soon enough and Pesonen could hack it as fourth liner based on his short time with the big team. Of course, the Devils already have a fourth liner so if he's not happy with being the thirteenth or fourteenth forward, then I wouldn't begrudge him if he goes back to Europe. I don't think much of Sislo, Hoeffel, Kelly, or Berube. I really don't think Tedenby will be the offensive winger he once flashed as having potential. That said, I wouldn't complain about everyone getting qualifying offers to at least maintain rights - all wouldn't be paid that much and being in Albany won't count against New Jersey's cap.

Let's go back to the big four, the more important group within this section. They will undoubtedly get paid much more and will count. This is where the challenge lies. Keeping Adam Henrique is a no-brainer but keeping him on a good deal will be tricky. He's coming off a poor sophomore season after a great rookie season. It's not quite clear whether which he truly lies as a player; but I find it hard to believe he'll get less than $2 million per year given his top-six role on the team. On top of that, the Devils may prefer a shorter term so if Henrique doesn't really bounce back, he's not stuck on the cap or get dealt for pennies off the dollar. If he does, he can get a more lucrative contract without waiting too long.

Andrei Loktionov represents an interesting case. In a way, getting dealt to the Devils could be the best thing that ever happened to him. Whereas he wasn't really respected in Los Angeles, he got into the lineup in New Jersey and showed off his skills. He's still has plenty to learn without the puck and he could stand to shoot more often. I'm still not sold on whether he's a top-six guy right now. Nevertheless, he's proven he belongs in this league and can do good things with some guy named Ilya Kovalchuk. I just hope it's enough for him to stay and for a decent amount of salary. Ideally, I'd want him to get a bit less than Henrique but also for two years. My concern is that some team in the KHL may throw much more at him, hoping he's unsettled enough to be interested in being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. If he remained a King, then it would be a good possibility. But he didn't. It's still an interesting dynamic.

Jacob Josefson had bad luck with injuries in 2011-12 and in 2013, well, he had some of that again. But he really just had more bad luck of the luck variety. He was next to last on the Devils in PDO; in 5-on-5 play, the Devils shot at 5% and the team's save percentage was 85.2%. It's easy to see how he "lost confidence" last season. Things just went awry when he was on the ice. Sometimes it was on him and other times it wasn't. But unlike some other former first round draft pick, Josefson was brought back later in the season. When he did play, he did more than just play a few minutes. He got penalty killing time and he usually started in the defensive zone at evens. It's easy to see that he belongs. The question is: how much?

Then there's Matt D'Agostini. He showed bursts of speed but not a whole lot much more as a winger. He didn't always stay in the line up. One could argue that he didn't really get settled but at 26 years old, I don't think he's going to develop all that much more. Among the big four, I think he's the least essential to keep. I don't see the Devils qualifying him at $1.8 million since that would require paying him at least that much. He certainly didn't play like he was worth that much I would prefer that he's not qualified and the Devils roll the dice with getting him cheaper as a UFA, assuming they want to keep him. If someone else swipes him as a UFA, then I don't think it's all that big of a loss. Regardless, he may want to go along with that. He's right at the end of his RFA period; his next contract will be as a UFA. It's not impossible to think he may want to sign for less, get into a good situation, try to have a good season, and improve his earning power for next summer.

I plan on finding some comparables for Henrique, Loktionov, and Josefson to get an idea how much would be reasonable compared to his peers in the future. Right now, I can see those three combine for close to $5 million to the cap. I wouldn't complain about, say, $2 million for Henrique and $1.5 million each for Loktionov and Josefson. It could even be much more than that depending on how much the Devils value those players. Given that keeping these three brings the Devils up to nine forwards, it could be quite a bit. All the same, they're going to cost more than they did last season.

The main point of all of this is that while the Devils will definitely have a lot of cap space to use; but it's not going to be just under $25 million for the UFAs. It may actually be closer to $18-20 million. It's still a large amount of cap space, but it may not last given some of the players the Devils need to re-sign or potentially replace. I definitely agree that how the Devils will handle Patrik Elias, David Clarkson, and Dainius Zubrus this summer will go a long way to determining what this team can do next season. Their importance is in that order. And I can understand the desire from Devils fans for looking to the open market for another offensive forward. However, how the Devils handle their RFAs will drive how much money they can really spend on UFAs. It's not going to be an insignificant amount of money. Even if they let a few go, then those are roster spots that has to be filled by someone - which could mean more UFAs to spend on. And for those minor leaguers, it's an important time in their careers as this can determine if they have a future at the next level. From the ownership perspective, the RFA group largely represents money that will be spent.

Again, I'm going to dive a bit deeper into a few of them in future weeks. In the meantime, let me know your opinions about the eleven RFA players the Devils have in the organization. How much do you think Henrique, Loktionov, and Josefson will get? Do you think they'll get short deals too? Should the Devils keep D'Agostini? What of the others? What do you think a potential heir apparent to the goaltending tandem like Kinkaid will get? What about Tedenby, who's played his way back to Albany for two seasons straight? Does it even matter what the Devils do with the others? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the impending RFA group of 2013 in the comments. Thank you for reading.

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