Adam Henrique gets six years, $24 million from NJ Devils; worth it?

Adam Henrique picked a hell of a time to be a restricted free agent for the New Jersey Devils.

The departure of Ilya Kovalchuk stunned the franchise and created scores of questions about its offense. Yet at the same time, that contract coming off the books and the Devils gaining new owners positively shifted the economic outlook for the team.

So the Devils signed Henrique to a 6-year, $24-million contract on Monday, after a season-and-a-half of service, along with that Stanley Cup Final run in 2012.

The $4 million cap hit might make some bristle given Henrique’s limited body of work – a Calder nominated rookie season, followed by a lockout-shortened season that saw his points-per-game average fall to 0.38 from 0.69, but his goals per game rise slightly (0.26).

But the Devils are buying two years of unrestricted free agency here, and the cap hit could look like a bargain if Henrique’s offensive development remains on track. Plus, the Devils have their top two centers signed for the next six years, with Travis Zajac earning $5.75 million against the cap annually.

It’s a good investment for Lou Lamoriello and the Devils, and an interesting contrast with the way New York Rangers GM Glen Sather is running negotiations with Derek Stepan, saying he wants to give that young forward a two-year “gap contract” rather than a long-term deal.

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