Going into his age-32 season, the American forward had 21 points in 58 games last year between Winnipeg and Boston.
Over the course of his career, Stafford has never been a high-end offensive producer. His career-best in goals came in 2010-11 with Buffalo when he tallied 31, but other than that has never had more than 21 in a single campaign. He’s also only cracked the 50-point plateau twice, and never surpassing 52 points. In that sense, to say that this is a significant fantasy signing isn’t accurate.
However, for years now, the Devils have been starved for scoring. Though he had just eight goals last year in 58 games played, eight goals would have been tied for seventh on the team in goals. A few of the names that had more – PA Parenteau though he was traded earlier in the year, and Mike Cammalleri – are no longer with the team, while Travis Zajac will miss months with an injury. In that sense, this team was starved for scoring, and even a guy who can contribute 15 goals in a full campaign would be a welcome addition.
Who this hurts
This really doesn’t hurt anyone too much fantasy-wise on the Devils. I would assume that Stafford slots in on the second line with Kyle Palmieri remaining on the top line. Realistically, the team had very little for right-wing depth, which is why this move makes sense. Perhaps this means Nathan Bastian – a second-round pick from 2016 – is unlikely for a feature role on the team, but perhaps that would have been the case anyway. Kevin Wickersham wrote up Bastian a few months ago, and even he thinks at best that Bastian would have been moving back and forth between the NHL and AHL.
One thing this does likely assure is that Marcus Johansson will not be playing on the right wing this year. Fellow hockey writer Max Ernst pointed out to me in an interview earlier this summer that Johansson alluded to being able to play all forward positions, but with Stafford added, this likely locks him into the second-line left-wing role.
Who this helps
This wildly depends on who the Devils see as their second-line centre with Zajac out of the lineup. Whether it be Nico Hischier, Pavel Zacha, or Adam Henrique, it gives them a competent winger who can score. Stafford isn’t a play-driver, but he can finish when given the opportunity, and that’s the most New Jersey can hope for now.
Unless he goes on a shooting percentage binge like he did when he scored 31 goals, at best this is a depth option on deep rosters. By that I mean unless we’re talking dozens of roster spots, he’s not worth a look in any league 12 teams or smaller. Keep an eye on the power play though; if he can manage some top-line minutes, he could have waiver-wire value at times this year depending on head-to-head schedules.
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