The New Jersey Devils announced on Thursday that unrestricted free agent defenseman Sami Vatanen has signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the team.
The 29-year-old was traded by the Devils to the Carolina Hurricanes on February 24, the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, in exchange for defenseman Fredrik Claesson, forward prospect Janne Kuokkanen, and a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
In 47 games with the Devils last season, Vatanen posted five goals, 23 points, a -12 rating, a 47.78% Corsi-for percentage, and a 47.24% expected goals-for percentage. He did not play a regular-season game with the Hurricanes as he was dealt with a right leg injury that costed him from playing after February 1 up until the regular season stopped on March 12 due to COVID-19. Vatanen posted three assists and a -1 rating in seven Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Hurricanes last season.
In 434 career NHL games with the Devils and Anaheim Ducks, Vatanen has recorded 45 goals, 194 points, and a -8 rating. In 44 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Vatanen has posted six goals, 17 points, and a +1 rating. He earned three goals, 11 points, and a +5 rating during the Ducks’ run to Game 7 of the Western Conference Final where they fell to the Chicago Blackhawks.
His best season came in 2015-16 when he set career-highs in assists (29) and points (38) and finished with a +8 rating in 71 games with the Ducks.
The Devils improve a defense that averaged 3.25 goals-per-game, last season was tied for the third-highest in the NHL. Though Vatanen was on the team for a lot of last season, he will only help the Devils’ defense this one.
While averaging 21:45 per game (third among Devils’ defensemen), including 3:03 on the power-play (most) and 1:58 on the penalty-kill, Vatanen recorded 50 hits, 80 blocked shots, 24 giveaways, and 14 takeaways.
The Hurricanes lost defensemen Vatanen, Trevor Van Riemsdyk, and Joel Edmundson in free agency after allowing 2.84 goals-per-game last season, tied for 11th in the NHL.
Vatanen can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2020-21 season.
The Devils now have $8,468,336 remaining in cap space after signing Vatanen.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) January 7, 2021
By Harrison Brown