Bratt is (almost) back in town, New Jersey Devils fans.
Okay, okay, technically two players were missing, as Corey Crawford retired mere months into his tenure with the Devils, but that truly came out of the blue. Bratt’s absence, by contrast, was expected, as his contract status made it a virtual guarantee.
You see, for those out of the know, Bratt officially signed his three-year, $2.475 million rookie contract in 2017, one year after being selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Once the contract expired, at the end of last season, Bratt became a restricted free agent – which you can read about here to avoid a monotonous regurgitation of the same information.
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While, theoretically, any team in the NHL could have offered Bratt a contract, even if it would potentially cost them draft compensation to make it happen, the unique situations of the 2020-21 season has all but eliminated the RFA market, as far more prolific players, like Mat Barzal, were forced to accept middling, shorter-term deals as a consequence of a flat cap and the league’s financial uncertainty.
But hey, that’s neither here nor there, my friends. Would Bratt have presumably liked a more player-friendly deal than the two-year, $5.5 million total he ultimately accepted? I imagine so. But that’s neither here nor there. All that matters now is that Bratt is back… well, contractually speaking, technically, the 22-year-old winger is still in Sweden as of mid-last week, but I imagine that’ll change shortly.
Even if Bratt misses the start of the 2020-21 NHL season – which officially opens up for the Devils on January 14th with a 7 pm EST contest versus the Boston Bruins – having number 63 back in a red, black, and occasionally reverse retro green jersey will do wonders for Jersey’s offensive development under new head coach Lindy Ruff.
Measuring in at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Bratt is a pure shooting triggerman perfectly suited for the Devils’ cornucopia of pass-happy centers, even if some, most notably Nico Hischier, will also miss time to start the season. Whether paired up with Pavel Zacha and Nikita Gusev like at the end of 2019-20, or paired up with one of the Devils’ young franchise centers in Hischier and/or Jack Hughes, Bratt is without a doubt a big part of the team’s future, especially if he can build upon an encouraging third season.
Could we one day see the day where Bratt is a consistent 20 goals and 30 assists performer? Maybe so, and barring something truly unforeseen, it’ll all but surely come in a New Jersey Devils… Jersey.
Objectively speaking, this day was always going to come. If Jesper Bratt was going to play in the NHL this season, it was going to be as a member of the New Jersey Devils. Would it have been nice for the two parties to agree to something back in December? Sure, that would have expedited the travel/quarantine/acclimation process considerably, but why worry about that now? No, Jesper Bratt is officially back with the New Jersey Devils contractually speaking, and at least for a little while, all is right with the hockey world.