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The Devils 2010 UFAs

With a loss in game five, the Devils were officially eliminated from the playoffs. Now, the offseason duties start for general manager Lou Lamoriello. While he’s already said coach Jacques Lemaire will return next year, there are several players Lamoriello will need to decide on. Below is a list of the players. While some should return, others have worn out their welcome and need to be shown the door.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Ilya Kovalchuk

After the game five loss, Kovalchuk informed the media that he’d be “open” to resigning with the Devils in the offseason. Today, in a press conference with the media, Lamoriello insisted he’ll try to re-sign the left-winger. Kovalchuk earned 27 points in 27 games for the Devils, and that point-per-game production matched only Zach Parise on the team. Kovalchuk, who excited Devils’ fans, brings a proven goal-scorer to the lineup. He also seemed to be meshing with some other players near the end of the season, including Patrik Elias. With a full season under his belt, and a consistent line to play with, Kovalchuk could probably replicate his numbers from Atlanta.

But that’s also a big if. As one of the top free agent targets this season, Kovalchuk can command between eight and 10 million dollars of annual salary. I believe the Devils would reap the benefits of signing him long term. But will Lamoriello be willing to break the bank? I think it would be worth the risk, but for one Kovalchuk, Lamoriello might be able to take care of other team needs.

Paul Martin

Photo Credit: JIm McIsaac/Getty Images

If Kovalchuk is free agent target number one, than Martin is target 1a. The young Devils’ defenseman has become one of the leaders on the blue line. While he spent considerable time injured this season, we’ve seen Martin mature into an above-average offensive defenseman in this league. Remember, he and David Hale came up together and were touted as the next Scott Niedermayer – Scott Stevens duo. Since he came into the league in 2003-2004, Martin has been a dependable player, playing in at least 70 games. He’s also increased his offensive output, routinely collecting 30+ points along the blue line. And, finally, he’s also solid defensively, only finishing with a negative +/- rating once in his seven-year career.

After Kovalchuk, Martin should be the number one priority for the Devils. His offensive skills bring an advantage, and he serves as a weapon on the powerplay. But, more importantly, he’s an improving young defenseman. I don’t think we’ve seen Martin reach his full potential, and re-signing him should be a priority.

Rob Niedermayer

Niedermayer played his role this year, centering the third line and playing a defensive role on the penalty kill. Niedermayer also chipped in offensively, putting in 10 goals and tallying 12 assists in 71 games. While he played well, he’s also dispensable. The Devils have young guys, such as Rod Pelley, who can step in and center the checking line (and for less money than Niedermayer). He played well in a Devils sweater, but he’s not vital to the team and shouldn’t be a high priority.

Mike Mottau

Oh, Mr. Mottau. Mottau was one of the streakiest Devils’ defenseman in recent memory. He’d play well in bursts, and I’d think that maybe he’d be worth keeping around. But then we’d see the terrible routes to the puck, the indecision, and the overall bad play. While I think he improved this season, I also think the Devils would be better to give younger players, like Mark Fraser, Matt Corrente, or Tyler Eckford the opportunity to play.

Martin Skoula

Skoula was a deadline addition, one of the typical Lou Lamoriello quiet deadline deals. He improved the depth of the defense, but overall wasn’t impressive. The Devils can live without him.

Yann Danis

The backup didn’t get many starts this year, so it’s difficult to tell whether or not he should come back. Since Martin Brodeur will start 90% of the games, it will be up to Danis if he wants to return.

Other UFA: Ilkka Pikkarainen, Cory Murphy

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