It wasn’t long ago when Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald traded away Sami Vatanen before the NHL Trade Deadline. This, of course, he did before become the interim GM in New Jersey. Now, just a week before puck drop, the defensemen has been signed to a one-year contract. What is ironic is that Sami Vatanen gets to play with Janne Kuokkanen, a fellow Finn, on the opening night roster.
Vatanen, 29, provided first and second line minutes on a troubled Devils defensive unit. What Sami can provide under a young and highly talented New Jersey Devils team is the experience as well as the leadership. For a guy who was worth $5 million, he signed on Thursday for a $2 million cap hit. In a 47 to 57 game season, Vatanen was able to hit 17 to 28 points between that margin of time.
In a 56 game season, I can see Vatanen amassing 23 points on average. The former Anaheim Duck would provide predictability to the team’s right-handed shooting core. Having players like Damon Severson and P.K. Subban on the first three pairs, and having players like Will Butcher, Ty Smith, Ryan Murray, Kevin Bahl, Dmitry Kulikov and Nikita Okhotyuk around, you can realistically keep 3-4 of those guys with the team, trying to balance out the defence for the Devils.
This season, for 2021, New Jersey’s new phrase is “eNJoy the ride.” If you understand, the NJ is a perfect fit for the state of New Jersey in that phrase. I honestly really like this contract for both the Devils and Sami Vatanen.
Vatanen did really well in New Jersey and the fans really like him a lot. In a more normal economy post-COVID-19, I can see Vatanen fetching $3.5-$4 million if he peaks with a flat cap league-wise. Despite being 29, he’ll be well worth it next June 3rd on his birthday.