The New Jersey Devils entered today with 11 restricted free agents. Two of them may not return.
The organization sent qualifying offers to nine of their restricted free agents today. Matt Corrente, Matt Taormina, Vladimir Zharkov, Mark Fraser, Maxim Noreau, Jeff Frazee, Steve Zalewski and Nathan Perkovich all received offers.
Alexander Vasyunov, who entered the offseason as a restricted free agent, did not receive an offer. His agent informed the Devils that he signed a one-year contract for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL next season.
The players can still receive offer sheets from other teams, but the Devils can match that offer.
There were a few players who were locks for qualifying offers. Taormina led defenseman in goals until a high-ankle sprain ended his season. He was one of the few bright spots during the team’s abysmal first half, and will probably get a chance to earn his spot back next season. Corrente, a former-first round pick, has the support of the organization behind him. Like Taormina, injury limited him this season.
Other players seem to be skating on thin ice. Fraser followed a strong rookie campaign with a disappointing sophomore season. The Devils qualified him, but with the defensive depth moving through the organization, he needs to put together a solid season. The same goes for Frazee. The Devils have three strong goalie prospects in Scott Wedgewood, Maxime Clermont and Keith Kinkaid. They’re still a year or two away, but Frazee doesn’t have much time to prove himself.
The organization also did not issue a qualifying offer to defenseman Anssi Salmela. He played 48 games with the Devils, but failed to really make an impression. It doesn’t necessarily mean the team won’t sign him. Two years ago, New Jersey didn’t qualify Andy Greene, but re-signed him anyway.
Zach Parise entered this offseason a restricted free agent, but did not receive an offer. Instead, New Jersey elected to take the left-winger to arbitration. That eliminates the possibility of other team’s submitting an offer sheet and guarantees he will be a Devil next season.
The New Jersey Devils drafted the number one rated international skater, defenseman Adam Larsson, with the fourth overall pick in yesterday’s NHL Entry Draft.
The organization filled one of their biggest needs with a very talented prospect. He joins an impressive list of young blueline prospects that will form the defensive corps for years to come. But many of those players remain two to three years away from making the NHL. With the lack of offensive talent on the Devils’ blueline, one question remains – can Larsson make an immediate impact on the NHL level?
Many believe Larsson is the most NHL ready defenseman. The 18-year old began playing for Skelleftea of the Swedish Elite League two years ago, becoming the third 16-year old to break into the league. He finished the season with one goal, eight assists and a plus-12 rating. Don’t let those low offensive numbers fool you – Larsson posses some serious offensive potential. Skelleftea used him primarily in a defensive role last season, limiting his production.
Playing against men for two seasons prepared him for the physicality of the NHL. He still needs to add strength, like most other young players. Devils’ president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said he’ll have every opportunity to make the team this season.
“We’ll have an opportunity to see him in the summer camp and training camp,” Lamoriello told Tom Gulitti of The Bergen Record. “All of that will determine it. He’s played two years in the elite league, so it’s not out of the question that he can do that.”
The Devils need immediate offensive help along the blueline. Last year, all defenseman who dressed for at least one game combined to record 88 points. Andy Greene led all defenseman with 23 points as the top offensive threat. That’s a pretty putrid number. New Jersey hasn’t had solid offense from a defenseman since Scott Niedermayer left. It’s a hole they’ve failed to fill year after year. Larsson could potentially be the answer to their never-ending problem.
“Larsson is going to be a top offensive defenseman,” New York Rangers Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark told Gulitti. “If a team feels that their priority is an offensive power-play D, if he goes one, it’s not a problem with me.”
The problems come with his experience. Like Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson, he needs to gain some experience on North American rinks. Both spent time in the AHL last season, learning how to adjust to the rink and playing style. Both came up and found success later in the season.
There’s no denying Larsson’s potential impact. Right now, he seems like one of the best options for offense along the blueline. His performance in both the prospect and training camp will ultimately decide his fate. He should play in the organization next season, and may see some NHL time.
It’s the offseason, which means the New Jersey Devils can only be doing one thing – looking for a new head coach.
Today, Devils’ president and general manager Lou Lamoriello announced the team would not hire a coach before the NHL Entry Draft Friday night. A few names are connected to the Devils, most notably Ken Hitchcock. There doesn’t seem to be a candidate on the horizon, and New Jersey appears doubtful to have a coach by the open of free agency. For a team that missed the playoffs, it’s incredible that this checklist item hasn’t been done.
There are several qualified and interesting candidates out there. Lamoriello could return to former Devil Kirk Muller, who is an assistant with the Montreal Canadiens. Mike Haviland, one of the hotter coaching prospects, could lead the team. Recently-fired Craig Ramsay would bring a veteran presence behind the bench.
With so many candidates, it’s a crapshoot as to who will become the organization’s next coach. There should be, however, one determining factor – the amount of actual NHL coaching experience. If the Devils want to return to the postseason, they need to hire a veteran coach.
This isn’t a revolutionary idea – just look at last season. John MacLean, the team’s assistant coach from 2002-2009, helped coach the Lowell Devils to a winning record during the 2009-2010 season. They finished fourth in the Atlantic Division and made the playoffs. They couldn’t advance past the first round, but he did exactly what the organization wanted – gain experience and show he could succeed as a coach.
Devils fans were excited to welcome one of the most successful former players to the bench. MacLean promised a more up-tempo system and a continued emphasis on “the Devils way.” After several first-round flameouts, he seemed to breath life into the organization. Many believed he would be the change this veteran team needed.
That optimism lasted until the end of October. MacLean promptly led the team into a tailspin. By December 23, the Devils were 9-22-2 and MacLean didn’t have a job. In rode Jacques Lemaire, leading the team on an incredible second half run.
The run proved something pivotal to the franchise’s success – the vital need to find a veteran coach. There’s no doubt the Devils are changing the guard. This isn’t the Devils of the early-2000s, with a large core of older players supplemented by younger call-ups. An AHL coach could find success with the various young players on this roster. The veterans, however, won’t respond to the unproven coach. It didn’t happen last year, and I’d seriously doubt it happening again.
I’m not going to guess on the team’s next head coach. With Lamoriello, playing the guessing game is an exercise in futility. But I will bet on one thing – the Devils next coach won’t be some hotshot assistant making his coaching debut. It’ll be an established veteran with a proven track record.
The New Jersey Devils need depth on the wings.
The team lacks great talent along both wings, with their great prospects manning center. The organization’s two best right-wingers, Mattias Tedenby and Nick Palmieri, both figure to remain in the NHL next season. Despite struggling offensively, Vladimir Zharkov also looks to be a virtual lock as a checking line forward. That leaves a gaping hole of talent needing to be filled.
There’s plenty of talented wingers at the NHL level, so this isn’t an immediate position of need for New Jersey. If the organization feels there’s a need for a right-winger, they can shop around for a decent free agent. They don’t need to use their first-round pick on a right-winger, but should address the issue in this year’s draft.
Without further adieu, The Devils Den presents the less-than-inspiring report on the organization’s right wingers. And here we go:
Albany Devils (AHL)
Nathan Perkovich – 40 GP, 17 points (8 G, 9 A), minus-3 rating
Perkovich slipped into a sophomore slump this season, failing to improve on the potential he showed as a rookie. He collected 33 points last season, including 19 goals. A high ankle sprain severely limited his production, which helped produce those low numbers. Unfortunately, Perkovich is a 26-year old AHLer. Time is running out for him to make an impact beyond the AHL level.
Darcy Zajac – 40 GP, 9 points (4 G, 5 A), minus-9 rating
Zajac struggled to find success at the AHL level this season. He played well with Trenton, collecting 23 points and a plus-8 rating. In Albany, those numbers dipped across the board. Zajac will never be a scorer like his older brother, Travis. He’s a third or fourth line checking forward at best. There’s already a ton of these guys throughout the organization, so Zajac will need to separate himself from the pack.
Trevor Kell – 21 GP, 3 points (1 G, 2 A), minus-8 rating
Kell seems destined to remain in the ECHL for next season. In four years with the organization, he’s failed to stick at the AHL level. He’s shown his offensive potential in the ECHL, where he collected 33 points in 37 games last season. Those numbers fail to transfer to the AHL level. He’s struggled to find any openings in the AHL, and he’s entering his fifth season with the organization. I would doubt his ability to move any higher than the AHL leve.
Mauro Jorg (Lugano) – 50 GP, 12 points (3 G, 9 A), minus-15 rating
The Devils selected Jorg in the seventh round last season, marking the first forward they selected. He doesn’t seem like anything special, considering his limited ability to produce offensively. He may still need some time to develop, and probably won’t turn pro for a few seasons.
Ed. Note: The Trenton Devils did not list player positions on the team’s roster. You can check a review of all of their forwards in this preview.
The New Jersey Devils stockpiled impressive depth up the middle. The team’s brimming with talent, and many players are ready to take the next step to the NHL.
Travis Zajac leads the brigade, firmly entrenched as the team’s top center. Patrik Elias, a converted left-winger, seems destined to finish his career as the team’s number two center. Jacob Josefson‘s solid rookie debut will undoubtedly lead to a roster spot next season. Rod Pelley will look to fend off Adam Henrique, Tim Sestito, and others for a spot on the roster.
That talent flows right down into Albany. Seven of Albany’s top ten scorers were centerman, an astounding number that shows the true talent in the position. Most won’t develop into first line scorers. But the depth is pretty amazing, and should provide the team with solid players for the future.
Albany Devils (AHL)
Matt Anderson – 76 GP, 55 points (23 G, 32 A), minus-3 rating
Anderson was an All-Star this season, netting a goal in the midseason showcase. He led all centers in every significant category despite never playing with a consistent line. In his three AHL seasons, Anderson improved his performance, posting a career high in points last season. Henrique will get the call first, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anderson get a look in the prospect camp this summer.
Adam Henrique – 73 GP, 50 points (25 G, 25 A), minus-3 rating
Henrique had one hell of a rookie season. While his 50 points aren’t overly impressive, he managed to produce offensively without a consistent line combination. His 25 goals are a rookie record. He shifted to left-wing for the second half of the season, which probably helped his numbers. His 50 points put him sixth among rookie scorers. He won’t need any more time in the AHL and should compete for a spot next season.
Steve Zalewksi – 81 GP, 44 points (15 G, 29 A), minus-8 rating
Zalewski came to the Devils organization in a February trade, where he found his game. He posted 11 goals and 17 assists in 31 games after the trade. He’s had a taste of the NHL, playing three games with the San Jose Sharks last season. He’s had AHL success, but never found a foothold. He seems destined to be AHL fodder who may get a few games here and there.
Stephen Gionta – 54 GP, 30 points (10 G, 20 A), plus-7 rating
Gionta gained fame for playing against his older brother, Brian, this season. Other than that, he didn’t do much with his NHL callup. He found some success in the AHL, collecting 30 points. He’ll never be a scorer and probably wouldn’t move past the fourth line on the NHL level. He provides good depth but isn’t the first choice for a roster spot next season.
Brad Mills – 53 GP, 24 points (15 G, 9 A), minus-2 rating
Mills made his NHL debut this season, scoring a game-winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in November. He’s a decent centerman, but nothing to write home about. His 24 points ranked pretty low, which is odd considering he anchored the team’s top line. Like Gionta, he’s a depth player at this point.
The New Jersey Devils enter the 2011 NHL Entry Draft with their left-wing depth in flux. There’s talent at the position, but it’s limited to just a few players.
Ilya Kovalchuk headlines the group of left-wingers. Despite a down season last year, he remains a premier scorer in the league. Everyone knows the skill Zach Parise can bring to the table. The restricted free agent has yet to negotiate a new deal, though, and will return from knee surgery next season. As of right now, the Devils young star can’t be considered an absolute shoe-in for the lineup. Brian Rolston rounds out the top talent on the left side. Although he experienced improved offensively last year, he can’t depend the same goal-scoring prowess he did last season.
After those three players, the talent thins considerably. Alexander Vasyunov played in 18 games last season, but didn’t make much of an impact. He also struggled in Albany, posting career lows across the board. With such talented wingers in the league right now, and the possibility of having two great ones on the team, left-wing isn’t a draft need. But if the Devils can manage to upgrade their depth with a later pick, it would help a position dying for a talented prospect.
Albany Devils (AHL)
Chad Wiseman – 48 GP, 44 points (16 G, 28 A), minus-8 rating
Wiseman can light the lamp, but hasn’t had his chance to show off in the NHL. He’s played in just nine games with NHL clubs, recording one goal and one assist. But he’s shown the ability to tear up AHL goaltending. This season, he set or tied Albany individual scoring records in one game. On March 9, he netted four goals against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 9:03, matching the record for most goals in a single period of play. He also tied the record of most goals scored in a game. Guess that Islanders goaltending is bad throughout the system.
Plenty of guys show their stuff in the AHL, but few have the talent to make it work in the NHL. Wiseman seems like one of those players. He’s a 30-year old career AHL player, and his best opportunities may be behind him. He’s a great depth piece, but not a legitimate NHL candidate right now.
Louis Robitaille – 50 GP, 8 points (2 G, 6 A), minus-2 rating
Robitaille never found a way to move through the organization, and ended his career last season with Albany. He was an enforcer, tallying an impressive 246 penalty minutes last season. But he never rose above the AHL ranks, and would never in today’s game. Enforcers need to possess some offensive skill, which Robitaille did not. He retired after the season to coach the QJAAAHL’s Valleyfield Braves.
The general managers took yet another stride in removing and severely punishing hits to the head, proposing elimination of the word “blindside” from Rule 48.
While it continues to be muddled by politics and inconsistent suspensions, the proposed tweak takes yet another step in the right direction. The general managers need to keep players safe, and removing the designation of blindside adds yet another layer of protection. It’s a necessary step toward protecting players and making the game safer.
When the GMs met on June 8, they agreed to amend the rule to encompass all hits to the head. In the first season of Rule 48, several hits fell into a gray area, and former league disciplinarian Colin Campbell needed to make judgment calls. This amendment should eliminate some of that gray area and make these calls easier to make.
“It’s very similar to what we talked about at the GMs meeting in the sense of broadening the rule,” league executive Rob Blake told ESPN. “The exact interpretation will go forward. But we had a good understanding that the union, the players and the NHL together want to go forward for the safety of the players.”
One particular piece of that quote sticks out – “the exact interpretation will go forward.” Brendan Shanahan, Matthieu Schneider and the GMs need to carefully word the revised ruling. Leave no gray areas. Spell it out so the referees don’t need to make quick on-ice interpretations.
Rule 48 was the first major step taken to address player safety. This amendment should further strengthen the rule. Hopefully, the league doesn’t fumble the chance to make another great stride toward keeping the players safe.
June 13 is one of those dates most New Jersey Devils’ fans always remember.
On this date eight years ago, the Devils defeated the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, 3-0, to win the organization’s third Stanley Cup. It was the third championship in eight years, solidifying their dynastic run. Since that win, they’ve failed to advance past the second round of the playoffs.
This, however, is a happy moment. We won’t dwell on the organization’s playoff shortcomings now. So sit back and relax as we recap the run to the team’s Stanley Cup championship.
New Jersey entered the playoffs the second seed in the conference, three points behind the conference champion Ottawa Senators. The faced off against the seventh-seeded Boston Bruins in the first round. They played them well during the regular season, compiling a 2-1-1 record. The Devils won the first two games at home and pushed Boston to the brink of elimination after a Game 3 win. The Bruins responded in Game 4, chasing Martin Brodeur in a 5-1 victory. The series would come to an end in Game 5, as Brodeur rebounded to blank Boston, 3-0.
Round two brought the Tampa Bay Lightning, a more difficult opponent. The Devils managed just a 1-1-2 record against Tampa Bay, who won the cup the next season. The Devils took the first two at home, including an overtime winner in Game 2. Tampa Bay almost coughed up a 3-0 lead on home ice in Game 3, as the Devils stormed back to tie the game. Dave Andreychuk scored the game winner to break the goosegg.
That would be the highlight for Tampa Bay. The Devils would win the next two games, clinching the series with a triple-overtime win in Game 5.
The Devils advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Senators, a matchup of the top two seeds in the conference. New Jersey hadn’t played well against Ottawa during the regular season, going 1-3-0. The Devils dropped the series opener, 3-2, marking the only opener they’d lose in the playoffs. They bounced back to win the next three games, pushing the Senators to the brink of elimination. Ottawa rallied, winning the next two to force a decisive Game 7. The team’s were tied in the third period, 2-2, until Jeff Friesen struck:
The goal would send the Devils to the Stanley Cup finals and make Friesen a hero in New Jersey.
The Mighty Ducks entered the Finals after a pretty amazing playoff run. They entered the postseason as the seventh seed and swept the defending champion Detroit Red Wings. They beat the top-seeded Dallas Stars in six games, then swept the Minnesota Wild. Brodeur was strong in Games 1 and 2, posting back-to-back 3-0 shutouts. The Ducks went back home and won their two home games, sending the series back to New Jersey tied, 2-2. The Devils then pounded the Ducks, 6-3, in Game 5 to close within one game of the championship. The Ducks returned the favor in Game 6, crushing the Devils, 5-2. It wasn’t an all one-sided affair, as Scott Stevens laid out Paul Kariya with this memorable hit:
Kariya would return and score a goal he later admitted he didn’t remember.
It came down to Game 7 at the Meadowlands. That’s when another Devil, this time Mike Rupp, would etch his name into Devils playoff lore:
Rupp became the first player in history to have his first playoff goal be a Stanley Cup-winning goal. They added two more for insurance, and shut out the Ducks, 3-0, for the championship. J.S. Giguere won the Conn Smythe, and deservedly so. But the Devils had their cup, the dynasty complete.
The New Jersey Devils forward strength seems focused on one position: left wing. On the NHL roster, the position runs three deep, with Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and converted center Patrik Elias. Rookies like Mattias Tedenby will only strengthen that position in the future.
The one position where the team lacks depth is right wing. David Clarkson represents the team’s only veteran right-winger, and his offensive potential is limited. Nick Palmieri showed a ton of promise this year, but his offensive success was helped by playing on the first line.
While Albany does a fantastic job of breaking down the forwards by position, the Trenton Devils do not. Since all the forwards are clumped together on the website, this will be a review of all the forwards. Some seem good enough to take the leap, and others seem destined to be ECHL-lifers.
And here we go:
Ryan Ginand – 68 GP, 75 points (29 G, 46 A), plus-1 rating
Ginand was one of the few standouts on the Trenton Devils this season. He was the team’s lone All-Star representative, leading them in every offensive category. He also fired 402 shots on net, the second most in ECHL history. Ginand enjoyed a brief callup to Albany this season, and should find a permanent spot on their roster next year. His offensive skill seems promising, and he could be a can’t miss prospect for the organization.
Ryan Hayes – 63 games, 50 points (23 G, 27 A), 0 rating
Hayes is right behind Ginand in terms of offensive potential. In his first professional season, the forward recorded 50 points, good for second on the team. His transition from the Plymouth Whalers of the CHL (where he played with Tyler Seguin) went better than expected. He’s also big into humanitarian work, which is a plus for any professional athlete. Hopefully he’ll play in the Devils prospect camp this summer so we can get an extended look at him.
Jeff Prough – 48 games, 42 points (25 G, 17 A), minus-13 rating
Prough suffered through some minor injuries this season, playing just 48 games. He still produced 0.88 points per game, which is pretty solid. He’s been with the Trenton Devils for three seasons, so he’s reaching the limits of potential flameout. He twice recorded 30 goals and 60 points, so he’s shown he can produce. Hopefully he gets a shot to move up the organization’s ladder next season.
Matt Lombardi – 66 GP, 33 points (20 G, 13 A), minus-10 rating
Like Hayes, Lombardi made his Trenton debut this season, playing in 66 games. There was no shortage of offense on this team, and Lombardi was the fourth forward to record at least 20 goals. He came from Boston College, working his way from walk-on to assistant captain of two national champions. It was a solid debut season.
The New Jersey Devils will always be a defense-first team. Jacques Lemaire’s first tenure as coach, way back in 1995, began that precedent. Those teams developed the trapping style that brought three Stanley Cups to the Garden State. It seemed the organization possessed unlimited defensive depth, churning out defensive stalwarts like Colin White to compliment the core of Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko and Scott Niedermayer.
Fast forward to 2011. The team still plays solid defense, but gone are the big names. In their place stand overachievers and average defenseman. The mass exodus of the dynasty defense through retirement and free agency left a gaping hole in the Devils’ organization. The inability to find a true offensive defenseman continues to frustrate fans. But there’s hope – a rising crop of defensive prospects, led by Jon Merrill and Alexander Urbom, should return the blueline to its once lofty status.
With a surplus of quality defenseman in this year’s draft, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Devils once again focus on their blueline with the fourth pick. But do they need a defenseman? The bubble of NHL-ready prospects looks ready to burst, providing ample opportunities for New Jersey to plug in holes. In today’s preview, we take a look at the organization’s defensive prospects, from the AHL to those yet to turn pro.
And here we go:
Albany Devils (AHL)
Alexander Urbom – 72 GP, 23 points (2 G, 21 A), minus-9 rating
Urbom continued the recent Swedish movement in the Devils organization. The 20-year old defenseman spent most of the season with the Albany Devils, earning two brief call-ups to the Devils. He led all Albany defenseman in points, and earned significant minutes on the powerplay.
The year of seasoning helped Urbom tremendously. When he broke camp with the Devils, he looked rough and didn’t adjust well to the NHL. But his year in the AHL gave him the ability to play with veterans like Olivier Magnan and Rob Davison. He ended his season on a positive note, tallying his first career NHL goal in the Devils’ 3-2 win. He may find himself back in the AHL next season, but Urbom made a strong case to play on the Devils’ blueline next season.
Rob Davison – 63 GP, 18 points (4 G, 14 A), minus-1 rating
Davison became one of the biggest offensive threats on an underachieving blueline in Albany this season. The stay-at-home defenseman, who compiled 203 NHL games before the season, never found a way to make it to New Jersey. When the organization needed replacements, they routinely called on other players. Davison signed this summer as a depth player, and served that role to the letter.
The unrestricted free agent probably won’t be in the organization next season. He helped with the development of Urbom and gave the team quality minutes. But a guy with over 200-games of NHL experience deserves a shot to make a NHL team, something he may not get with New Jersey.
Olivier Magnan – 50 GP, 13 points (2 G, 11 A), minus-3 rating
Magnan’s shown steady improvement in each season with the organization. The former QMJHL Kevin Lowe Trophy winner (best defensive defenseman) finally got his chance to play in New Jersey last season. In 18 games, he was solid yet unspectacular, failing to record a point. But he couldn’t stick in New Jersey, eventually giving way to Mark Fayne.
Despite solid play for both teams, Magnan may not return to the team next season. With a new crop of defenseman ready to take the reigns, Magnan may be forced out by his inability to deliver on his talent.