At the beginning of this offseason, the Devils had a lot of different tasks they had to complete. None were bigger than re-signing Jesper Bratt. GM Tom Fitzgerald made it clear numerous times that Bratt was a part of the core of the New Jersey Devils, along with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Dougie Hamilton. Jesper Bratt himself expressed that he wants to stay in New Jersey. With loads of cap space not just for this season, but for years to come, it seemed like it would be smooth sailing to get a long-term deal signed.
Fast forward to late July this year and no agreement had been signed. What was worse was that Bratt looked like he was on his way to his arbitration hearing a week ago. Then, at the very last minute, the Devils and Bratt made peace and signed him to a 1-year contract at $5.45 million. Now, this isn't the deal we Devils fans were hoping for, but at the same time, there are a lot of reasons to be happy about this contract. Getting Jesper signed for at least next season is an obvious one, but when you look at it more deeply, there are other good reasons such as:
He will be an RFA after the 22/23 Season
The signing of a 1-year contract gives both sides the additional time they need and they will have to address a longer-term signing again this offseason if no deal is done prior to that. Also, if another team signs Bratt to an offer sheet, the Devils would at least get significant draft compensation to use in other ways to help the team. None of us want to see Bratt leave like that and it's unlikely it will go that way, but you never know.
2. You're getting a motivated Jesper Bratt
Jesper Bratt, I'm sure, feels that he deserves top dollar. However, considering that the 21/22 season was better statistically than any year he's had before, the Devils would want to see a continuation of strong production before giving him huge AAV just yet. This gives the Swedish left-winger an extra reason to take an even larger step in his career besides helping the Devils get back into the playoffs. If that becomes the case, by the time Bratt is eligible for an extension (January 2023), the Devils may very well just splash the cash and give him what he wants.
3. Bratt helps the Devils get back into the Playoffs
This is probably the biggest win of the entire scenario. At the end of the day, the Devils want and certainly need to get back into playoff hockey. They've made it just once since the 2012 Stanley Cup Final run. They want to get out of this rebuild and Jesper Bratt can definitely help them. He is a goal scorer with speed and some of the smoothest puck handling in the NHL. He will be paired with the likes of Jack Hughes and the newest Devil Ondrej Palat which will only elevate Bratt's game to an even higher level. If Bratt breaks out again and guides New Jersey back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it will be far easier to give him a big money, long-term agreement.
It obviously stinks that the Devils couldn't get a long deal done with Bratt this offseason. However, he is still with this team for the next season and there are mutual feelings to make this relationship between player and organization abiding. It's going to take a lot from both sides to demonstrate they are made for one another. This will no doubt be one of the most important seasons in recent Devils' history. Talk and contracts are done, it's time for both to get to work and bring playoff hockey back to the Garden State.