The name Damien Brunner has been thrown around in regards to the New Jersey Devils almost all summer, and it seems like the speculation is not done just yet. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press is reporting that the Devils are still in talks with the Swiss winger.
Hearing UFA ex-Wing Damien Brunner may be talking to Dallas (Jim Nill knows him) and New Jersey, possibly also Vancouver.The idea of Damien Brunner is certainly an intriguing one for the Devils. He's a young, speedy player who has some upside. In his first NHL season, Brunner tallied 26 points (12g, 14a) for the Red Wings while playing in 44 games. His production tailed off a bit during the regular season, as he scored only twice during the final fifteen games of the regular season. In the playoffs, he regained some of his scoring touch. Brunner finished with nine points (4g, 5a) in 14 playoff contests.
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) September 12, 2013
Perhaps the biggest red flag surrounding the 27-year-old winger is his ability to play an 82-game season. The Swiss-A league, where Brunner played prior to coming to the NHL, plays a fifty game season. Brunner actually played a combined 77 games last year between Swiss club Zug, and the Red Wings, but his lack of production towards the end of the season may very well have been due to fatigue. He played 27 more regular season games last year than he ever had prior to 2013.
Can Brunner handle the rigors of a full NHL season? This year, the schedule is somewhat condensed once again, with the Olympics in February. The Zurich native will surely be playing for his country during the Olympics, which will add some additional games for him as well.
The Devils currently have $3.8 million in cap space according to CapGeek.com, so while they look to have the room to sign Brunner, the question is, will it be worth it?
With the cap expected to rise, and some contracts coming off the books for the Devils next season, it isn't out of the question for the team to sign a player such as Brunner and be close to the cap. If they do sign him, it might lessen their chances of taking a larger contract on via trade during the season.
I think the best situation would be to give him a one year deal. Let him come in for something around $2.5 million, and prove that he can play through an entire NHL season. He certainly showed enough last year in Detroit to warrant a look. With a one year deal, it's a low-risk, high-reward situation for the Devils, should they be able to strike a deal.
We'll update you with any information that becomes available.