Devils bolster defensemen with additions of Hamilton, Graves

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After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2021-22 regular season, which starts Oct. 12. Today, the New Jersey Devils:

2020-21 season: 19-30-7, seventh in MassMutual East Division; did not qualify for Stanley Cup Playoffs

Key arrivals

Dougie Hamilton, D: The 28-year-old agreed to a seven-year contract July 28. Hamilton scored 42 points (10 goals, 32 assists) in 55 regular-season games and five points (two goals, three assists) in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Carolina Hurricanes last season, and was fourth in voting for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the NHL. Hamilton’s 59 goals since the 2017-18 season are the most among NHL defensemen. … Ryan Graves, D: The 26-year-old was acquired July 15 in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche for forward Mikhail Maltsev and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft (No. 61, defenseman Sean Behrens). Graves scored 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 54 regular-season games and six points (one goal, five assists) in 10 playoff games last season. … Jonathan Bernier, G: The 33-year-old signed a two-year contract July 28. Bernier was 9-11-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 24 games (23 starts) for the Detroit Red Wings last season. … Tomas Tatar, F: The 30-year-old signed a two-year contract Aug. 5. He scored 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in 50 regular-season games and had one assist in five playoff games with the Montreal Canadiens last season. Tatar has scored 20 or more goals in six of the past seven seasons.

 

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Key departures

Nathan Bastian, F: He was selected by the Seattle Kraken in the NHL Expansion Draft on July 21. Bastian scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 41 games as a rookie last season. … Ryan Murray, D: He signed a one-year contract with the Avalanche on Aug. 2. Murray had 14 assists in 48 games last season, his first with the Devils. … Will Butcher, D: He was traded to the Buffalo Sabres on July 28 with a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft for future considerations after scoring 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in 23 games last season. … Connor Carrick, D: Carrick agreed to a one-year contract with the Kraken on Aug. 4. He scored two points (one goal, one assist) in 11 games last season. 

On the cusp

Alexander Holtz, F: The 19-year-old scored 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 40 games for Djurgarden of the Swedish Hockey League, the top professional men’s league in Sweden, and three points (one goal, two assists) in 10 games for Binghamton of the American Hockey League last season. … Nolan Foote, F: The 20-year-old scored 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 24 games for Binghamton and two points (one goal, one assist) in six games with the Devils last season. … Kevin Bahl, D: The 21-year-old scored five points (one goal, four assists) in 27 games with Binghamton and had two assists and 18 hits while averaging 16:55 in ice time in seven games with New Jersey last season.

What they still need

Forward depth. The acquisition of Tatar boosted the top six. Holtz should eventually bolster production but will need time to adjust to the NHL. Centers Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes are going to attract much of the attention in the offensive zone, so another veteran may be needed to provide support.

They said it

“I like our defense corps. I think from top to bottom we’ve got speed, size, puck-movers. The goal is not to play in our end. … Go back for pucks, get it, move it out quickly. That’s what Dougie can bring, along with Damon Severson, P.K. Subban, Ty Smith, Ryan Graves and Jonas Siegenthaler. These guys know how to move pucks, and that’s important.” — general manager Tom Fitzgerald

Fantasy focus

The signing of Hamilton boosts the fantasy ceiling of Hughes, who took a big step forward in his second NHL season, averaging 0.55 points per game after scoring 0.34 per game as a rookie in 2019-20. Hughes should be on the first power play with Hamilton and further improve his point total (31 in 56 games last season; second on Devils behind Pavel Zacha‘s 35 points in 50 games). Hughes enters the top 100 overall fantasy realm in standard leagues after the Hamilton signing and rejoins the upper echelon in keeper formats with a better supporting cast. — Pete Jensen

Projected lineup

Tomas Tatar — Nico Hischier — Jesper Bratt

Janne KuokkanenJack HughesYegor Sharangovich

Miles Wood — Pavel Zacha — Alexander Holtz

Andreas JohnssonMichael McLeodJesper Boqvist

Ryan Graves — Dougie Hamilton

Ty Smith — Damon Severson

Jonas Siegenthaler — P.K. Subban

Mackenzie Blackwood

Jonathan Bernier

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