Wotherspoon signs two-year deal to stay with New Jersey organization
The Utica Comets’ parent team on Friday recognized some player signings who could spend time with the American Hockey League team.
Most notable of the group is veteran defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon, who earned a two-year NHL contract with the Devils after a strong 2021-22 season while under contract with the Comets in the AHL.
Forwards Jack Dugan, Brian Pinho and Mason Geertsen have all signed two-way one-year contracts. Geertsen spent last season with New Jersey after the team claimed him via waivers in early October, but played sparingly.
For Wotherspoon, 29, the contract is a two-way street. The breakdown is $750,000 at the NHL level and $300,000 in the AHL for 2022-23 and $775,000 at the NHL level and $325,000 in the AHL for 2023-24.
Two-way contracts mean players will receive one salary if they play in the NHL and a separate salary if they appear in the AHL.
Wotherspoon was a veteran present for a group of young defensemen with the Comets last season and played a key role in the team’s penalty kill. He also had the opportunity to represent Canada at the Olympics last winter.
The right-handed defenseman had 21 points (3 goals, 18 assists) in 53 regular season games with Utica. He also led the team with a plus-26 differential.
He has played 486 AHL games with three other teams and 30 NHL games, which means he is considered an AHL veteran. AHL teams can play with a few veteran players on the roster each night.
New Jersey general manager Tom Fitzgerald said at a press conference on Friday that he would like to add depth to the defensive group.
“We believe in our young players. We think (Nikita) Okhotiuk, (Kevin) Bahl and even Reilly Walsh could push for a spot on the roster (next season),” he said.
“In free agency, the first three days it’s bang, bang, bang, and then things die down. Then you see what falls through, what makes sense, and what features you’d like to add. We Let’s take a look at that and see what makes sense to add to the group due to what our future might look like in certain positions.
All four players are expected to play important roles for the organization heading into the 2022-23 season. Notably, Fitzgerald didn’t mention any of the signings during a half-hour press conference Friday morning, meaning they could be considered options for Utica.
With the exception of Dugan, each of the players will need to clear waivers to be assigned to Utica. All roster decisions are made by Devils officials.
Here’s a look at the other three signings:
Geertsen, 27, signed a contract worth $750,000 at the NHL level and $300,000 at the AHL level ($350,000 guaranteed).
Known for his physical style and record at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Geersten has played mostly in the AHL during his career, totaling 519 penalty minutes in 297 games. He has 50 points in total.
Dugan, 24, and Pinho, 27, are new to the organization.
Dugan signed a contract worth $750,000 at the NHL level and $125,000 in the AHL. Right-hander Dugan spent the past two seasons with AHL Henderson with 16 goals and 35 assists in 72 regular season games.
Dugan was a teammate of Tyce Thompson at Providence College.
Pinho signed a contract worth $750,000 at the NHL level and $325,000 in the AHL.
He has played the past four seasons in the Washington Capital organization. With AHL Hersey, he has 40 goals and 38 assists in 172 regular season games. Notably, he is coming off shoulder surgery in March, according to reports. He has played a total of 37 games over the past two seasons.
The signings came after key Utica offensive players AJ Greer and Chase De Leo signed with other teams.
The organization has yet to re-sign a few restricted free agents, including Thompson and Fabian Zetterlund. However, the organization still has ceiling space.
“Keep adding is important,” Fitzgerald said.