July 21 2013 05:06AM
Photo by TheAHL
RFA Zach Redmond was re-signed to a one-year, two-way contract by the Jets yesterday that will pay him $715K in the NHL and $65K in the AHL. Redmond played in 8 games for the Jets last season before missing the rest of the season with a severed artery suffered in practice. The right-handed two-way defender had an impressive NHL debut, scoring a goal and three assists while averaging over 19 minutes of ice time while first Byfuglien and Bogosian and later Enstrom were sidelined.
Below we'll look at the contract and player separately.
Redmond is not yet waiver eligible, having played just 8 games under his first professional contract. In other words, it's clear that the Jets intend to begin resolving their log jam on defence by sending Redmond to the IceCaps to start the season. Redmond becomes waiver eligible with another 44 games of NHL play or at the conclusion of the 2013/14 season (whichever comes first), so we can expect him to see spot duty at the NHL level at best. Moreover, a single year contract clearly indicates the team's intention to evaluate Redmond for an NHL job without beind handcuffed in subsequent seasons by his waiver eligibility.
As we discussed the other day, the team made a decision on Redmond with Paul Postma's contract, which does have a second year at higher dollars for a waiver eligible player. Redmond will not only have to impress enough to earn a spot in the lineup and justify a paycheque, he'll also have to impress enough to convince management to cut loose another investment. The team has given Redmond and up-hill battle with this contract.
From Redmond's perspective, the addition of Pardy and Kulda, and Postma's recent deal meant he just didn't have any leverage. His injury was a severe one and proving he can come back and play professional hockey both physically and mentally will be of value to his long term career. He got a chance to play, and no doubt fans and people within the organization alike are cheering for him.
Photo by TheAHL
The most curious part of Redmond's deal in light of Paul Postma's is that it's entirely possible Redmond is the better player today. Both players have such limited resumes at the NHL level we have too small a sample to say for sure by eye or by advanced stats. Postma has scored more than Redmond on the same AHL team, though Redmond's 50 AHL points in 113AHL games is still impressive. Both players are late round picks and lack pedigree. Redmond is an '88 birthday, Postma an '89, though it seems silly to assign Postma more potential based on that, given he has 226 professional games under his belt compared to Ferris State graduate Zach Redmond's 121. Both are large bodied, smooth skating defencemen, but Redmond has a reputation for being physical and a capable cycle breaker as well as a competent (though not frequent) fighter. Most importantly, if we trust Claude Noel and defensive coach Charlie Huddy at all, Redmond was given significantly more minutes in his debut as an NHL rookie than was Postma in his 3rd season of NHL games, and was played in all three disciplines. He averaged more even strength minutes than Clitsome this past year (16:40) while playing almost 1:30 of short handed and powerplay time each.
A few days shy of his 25th birthday, it's entirely possible that Zach Redmond forever remains a bubble NHL defender. His 19+ minutes a game came during a 2 win, 6 loss stretch of hockey that was among the Jets' worst of the season, including a 6-3 loss to the Panthers followed by an 8-3 loss to the Lightning in Redmond's first two games. (It's worth noting that Redmond was a +1 in those two games combined.) Nevertheless, it's unlikely that Redmond gets a fair look at training camp this year, as the Jets can put off making a permanent decision (such as losing Postma) by putting Redmond in the AHL to start the year.
The Bottom Line
I don't want to sound as though I think Zach Redmond can put the Jets into the playoffs. His extended minutes came while the Jets blueline was paper thin, while the majority of Postma's season came on the third pairing. Postma may still show he's the better NHL player, and certainly the Jets powerplay needs help. The fear is simple: the team protects its replaceable assets by stunting open competition for roster spots. Worse - that by protecting assets in the short term, it loses control of assets in the longer term. Good teams have competition for jobs (or use known NHL quality players) and allow the better players to win those competitions. The Jets may yet prove that's the case. More likely, Trouba and Redmond start the year together in St. John's while Pardy and Postma stay with the big club regardless of what happens in training camp.
It's a good chance for Redmond to get this career back on track after last year's very scary, near-death experience. Hopefully he can pick up where he left off as a multi-tool, two-way defender and continue to develop into an NHL quality player.