It took nearly the entire summer, but Jiri Tlusty has finally found a home for the 2015-16 season.
The New Jersey Devils announced they have signed the left winger to a one-year, $800,000 contract, which stands to be an absolute steal of a deal for the Devils.
This past season, Tlusty, 27, was on a one-year, $2.95-million pact with the Carolina Hurricanes before being shipped to the Winnipeg Jets at the trade deadline. At the deadline, Tlusty was an interesting commodity, boasting both offensive talent and the puck-possession game that’s becoming more coveted in the analytics era. That a player of his ability took a $2-million-plus pay cut shows just how difficult this off-season market was for unrestricted free agents.
It was clear Tlusty wasn’t going to accept anything less than a one-year contract. It had been reported earlier this week that Tlusty had turned down as many as five pro-tryout offers and wanted, at the very least, a one-year deal. Without those offers, Tlusty was reportedly willing to test his KHL options. His signing with New Jersey ends that possibility — for this season, at least.
Tlusty isn’t what you’d call an offensive juggernaut, but he’s a near lock for somewhere between 15-20 goals and 25-40 points for the upcoming campaign. If he’s given top-six minutes and power play time in New Jersey, he could even best those marks. In his most productive season — the 2012-13 campaign with Carolina — Tlusty scored 23 goals and 38 points while averaging roughly 18 minutes per game.
Apart from landing Tlusty at a great price, locking him up to a one-year deal can now serve to benefit the Devils in a number of ways.
If Shero believes in Tlusty’s play and wants to keep him around for the future, the option is there to negotiate a contract extension at any point in the season. The Devils are in a rebuilding period and Tlusty could be a great piece to have in a middle-six role, and if he’s willing to sign a cap-friendly deal on a longer term, that would be a coup for New Jersey.
Alternatively, Tlusty now becomes an extremely attractive trade deadline chip. The Devils aren’t likely to make the post-season in 2015-16, which means a number of players could be on the trade block come deadline day. Tlusty was shipped out to the Jets at 2014-15’s deadline in exchange for a third-round selection in the 2016 draft and a fifth-round pick in 2015. That’s a great haul for a player who scored 14 goals and 31 points this past season.
Much of what happens with Tlusty going forward will be dependent on his fit with the Devils. If Tlusty has another breakout season, Shero could look like a genius. If he flops, New Jersey can send him elsewhere for an asset in return. That sounds like a deal Devils fans can get behind.