At noon tomorrow, the NHL will engage in their own “silly season.” By now, you’ve already been inundated with coverage of the NBA free-agency pool. While the NHL can’t boast the star power, the excitement and anticipation still hangs in the air for every single team. It’s through free agency that several teams will try and find that missing piece to bring them to the playoffs or even hoist the Stanley Cup.
But with a weaker free agent class this year, many teams might not find those players to lead their teams to victory. And, when looking at the Devils, I’d expect the team to take a wait-and-see approach to fill their free agent holes.
The Devils have two of the biggest unrestricted free agent names coming off the books tomorrow. Both Paul Martin and Ilya Kovalchuk will become unrestricted free agents tonight, and the Devils haven’t made significant headway with either player. As reported yesterday by Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger, Martin’s agent doesn’t believe the two sides will come to an agreement before tonight.
“I’ve spoken to Lou (Lamoriello) on a few different occasions,” said former Devils player Ben Hankinson, who represents Martin. “It’s obviously been a very frustrating year for Paulie and the Devils. There will probably be some more changes. Time will tell if he ends up back in New Jersey.”
While it’s not the most reassuring quote, it sums up the potential of watching two big free agents leave the team. We as fans have been through this before. Scott Gomez left to sign a huge contract with the Rangers, as did Bobby Holik a few years before him. One of the most heartbreaking signings was when Brian Rafalski left to join the Red Wings. In each of these scenarios, the team lost players because of fiscal concerns. And, during this free agency period, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the two unrestricted free agents leave.
Remember, the Devils never usually make a huge splash in free agency. And, given what both
Kovalchuk and Martin would want to stay, the Devils probably won’t retain both of them. While the Devils have made some big signings in the past few years, the latest being Brian Rolston (four years, $20 million). But usually Lamoriello looks to make smaller moves to improve the team. That’s when guys like Yann Danis, Dean McAmmond and Rob Niedermayer get signed. These players provide depth and experience to the organization, and they usually are “trademark Lou” moves.
Continue reading to see what I believe the Devils will ultimately focus on come noon tomorrow.
The Devils agreed to a two-way, one-year contract with center Tim Sestito, general manager Lou Lamoriello announced today.
Sestito would have become an unrestricted Group 6 free agent tomorrow at noon. A Group 6 UFA is a player who’s contract has expired, is 25 or older, has played at least three professional seasons and has played less than 80 career NHL games.
Sestito, who turns 26 on August 28, recorded no goals and one assist in nine NHL games this season. He has no goals and one assist in ten career NHL games.
Sestito recorded 18 goals and 17 assists in 66 AHL games in 2009-2010 for the Lowell Devils.
If both clear waivers, the Devils can buy the players out. Pandolfo’s deal is worth $2.5 million, while Peters’ is only $500,000.
The league’s CBA determined that teams who buy out players spread their cap hit over two years. With buyout of both players likely, the Devils will be paying two thirds of Pandolfo and Peters remaining salary this season and next season. Pandolfo will cost the team $833,333, while Peters will only be $166, 667.
Peters never seemed to fit into ex-coach Jacques Lemaire’s system. Peters made the team out of camp after being invited as a tryout, but never seemed to stick full-time. This past season, Peters only played in 29 games, recording no goals and no assists, finishing with a plus/minus of -5. His limited ability as nothing more than an enforcer really never fit in, and there’s no love lost here for this move.
Lamoriello explained that, with the play of Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond and the addition of Jason Arnott, their wasn’t enough room on the roster for Peters.
“With Jason Arnott coming our size and strength is there and also (Pierre-Luc Letourneau) Leblond has improved so much and we don’t want to take a spot on the roster away from a young player,” Lamoriello said to Tom Gulitti in explaining the decison to waive/buy out Peters.
Pandolfo, however, deserves the upmost respect from Devils fans. Pando, as he was known by teammates, was drafted by the Devils in the second round (32nd overall) in 1993. Pandolfo was a member of the 2000 and 2003 Stanley Cup championship teams, pairing with John Madden to form two-thirds of a great checking line. Pandolfo’s defensive game earned him the spot as a finalist for the Selke trophy in 2007. Never an offensive force, Pandolfo will finish his Devils career with 99 goals and 124 assists in 819 career games. He tallied 11 goals and 22 assists in 131 playoff games.
Pandolfo, when healthy, rarely ever missed a game. The left-winger holds the fifth-longest consecutive games streak for the Devils, playing in 307 consecutive games. That streak came to an end November 28, 2007, when he sustained pubic bone ligament damage after being hit into the boards in a game against Dallas. He missed 28 games with the injury, and never seemed the same since.
Since Pandolfo is injured, he needed to request to be put on waivers. After speaking with Lamoriello, Pandolfo asked to be placed on waivers. The left-winger told Gulitti he wanted an opportunity somewhere else.
“I asked him if he would do it for me,” Pandolfo said. “Obviously, the last two years have been a difficult two years and I don’t want to go through the same exact thing next year. I still want to play and this gives me an opportunity to try to sign with another team.”
Last season, it seemed like Pandolfo found a way into Lemaire’s doghouse. The left-winger never got into a groove, only playing 52 games. He also sustained a rotator-cuff injury after a hit from ex-Devil Mike Rupp while playing the Pittsburgh Penguins October 24. The winger wasn’t happy with the way last season ended, when he was a healthy scratch for all five games of the playoffs. According to reports, he was notified by the coaching staff through text message.
“I’m just bitter about what happened at the end of the year,” he said. “That’s not worth even going into.”
Continue reading for more of my take on Pandolfo’s time as a Devil.
The Devils have re-signed potential restricted free agent David Clarkson, according to several sources.
According to TSN, the deal is for three year deal at a total of $8 million. He’ll make $2 million this season, and $3 million in the final two years of the contract.
“I’ve very excited and happy about the way things went and looking forward to the season,” Clarkson said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “My agent and Mr. Lamoriello have been talking for a while.”
Clarkson, who missed a total of 36 games dealing with ankle injuries, registered 11 goals and 13 assists in 46 games.
Clarkson’s new contract gives him a big raise from his last deal. Last season, in the final of a two-year contract, Clarkson made $875,000. If he did not sign by July 5, the winger would have been eligible for arbitration.
Clarkson never wanted to reach the arbitration stage.
“I don’t think you have ever want to have to go into arbitration or have to do any of that,” he said. “I’m glad that all the cards fell into place and excited for what’s ahead.”
The Devils completed their coaching staff today, naming former Lighting assistant Adam Oates to the same position with the organization.
Oates will fall under the role of “offensive assistant” that new coach John MacLean spoke about during his introductory press conference. With the Lightning, Oates helped improve the power play, something the Devils desperately need to improve.
General manager Lou Lamoriello had nothing but praise for the assistant coach.
“Throughout his career, Adam was without question one of the top playmaking centers, particularly on the power play, and was considered one of the top face-off players in the game,” Lamoriello said in a statement released by the team. “These attributes bring a different dimension to our coaching staff and both John and I are delighted that Adam is joining our organization.”
Oates, 47, played in 1,337 NHL games, registering 341 goals and 1,079 assists for 1,420 points and 415 penalty minutes. The former center played for Detroit, St. Louis (where he was teammates with Scott Stevens in 1990-91), Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Anaheim and Edmonton. Oates played in five NHL All-Star games, and reached the 100 point mark on four occasions. He ranks sixth all-time in assists. Oates retired from playing on April 3, 2004, and took his first NHL assistant job last season with the Lightning.
Oates joins Larry Robinson and Chris Terreri on MacLean’s staff.
I think Oates could do well with the Devils this season. Clearly, the power play needs help. If he can do something to get solid production night in and night out, then I’ll be happy. Too many times over the past few years we’ve watched the Devils look really sharp with the man advantage on night and unorganized the next. The team needs stability, and it seems Oates can bring this to the organization.
I also think his influence will be good for the young centers on this team, especially a guy like Travis Zajac. We all saw Zajac take a step forward last season, and Oates may be able to continue to improve Zajac’s overall play. Oates’ assist numbers are stellar, and I’m sure he can help Zajac to develop better on-ice vision and playmaking skills. While Zajac is one of the better centers in the league, I’m sure he’ll benefit from some time with Oates.
According to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello confirmed he sent one-year offers to potential restricted free agents David Clarkson, Mark Fraser, Rod Pelley and Tyler Eckford.
Any restricted free agent not given an offer by 5 p.m. yesterday would become free agents on July 1.
The biggest name on this list is Clarkson. Lamoriello has made it a priority to re-sign the young winger, and I’ve debated what Clarkson’s value, in dollars, would be to the team. I think he’ll end up pushing seven figures, possibly eclipsing $2 million per year.
Fraser and Pelley are more of a mystery. Fraser, who played in 61 of the team’s games this season, gave the Devils solid production night in and night out. Not known for his goal-scoring, Fraser scored three goals – all against the Pittsburgh Penguins – and also tallied three assists. With Mike Mottau potentially leaving via free agency, it’s possible Fraser can receive a slight bonus and a one-way contract. Pelley, who appeared in 64 games, has tried to find a regular spot with the Devils’ for the past two seasons. He’ll have to compete for a spot, but I’d be surprised if he wasn’t given a one-way contract.
Eckford, Davis and Magnan-Grenier will probably be given two-way contracts. All three had limited NHL experience this season, but Eckford is expected to contest for a spot on the Devils’ blue line this season. Davis and Magnan-Grenier will probably stick around Albany.
It’s been over two days since the Devils selected five players in the 2010 NHL Entry-Level draft. With no first round pick in the mix, it’s doubtful that we’ll see any of the 2010 draftees in Newark this season (except for prospect camp, which begins July 11). Many of the prospects are young, and they all have something to prove over the next few years. While it’s still too early to predict whether they will be a legend or bust, there is time to reflect on the picks. In this post, I’ll look at the two goalie selections the Devils made.
Coming into this year’s draft, the Devils organization had a huge hole it needed to fill – goaltending. After Martin Brodeur, the organization’s depth and skill took a sharp dive. The Devils hadn’t drafted a goalie since 2005, when the team selected Jeff Frazee. Since then, Frazee has played average hockey in the minors (14-16-0, 2.80 goals-against average, .910 save percentage), and the disparity between Brodeur and the rest grew larger. To address that need, the Devils selected two goaltenders – Scott Wedgewood (third round, 84th overall) and Maxime Clermont (sixth round, 174th overall). While both players won’t be expected to immediately produce, they will need to provide some depth at the goalie position in the organization.
Both Wedgewood and Clermont weren’t big name draft targets. Wedgewood, taken in the third round, didn’t even start for Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League this season. Wedgewood, ranked number 19 of 30 North American goalies, only played in 18 games this season. He put together a 5-9-0 record, posting a 3.26 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. The 17-year old also played in four postseason games, going 1-0-1 with a 2.07 GAA and a .956 save percentage. During that overtime loss, Wedgewood made 70 saves. While Wedgewood was drafted higher, Clermont certainly could match his potential.
Clermont became the second goalie drafted by the Devils in the sixth round, 174th overall. The Montreal native was ranked one spot better than Wedgewood, checking in at 18 out of 30 North American goalies. Clermont appeared in 66 games for the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL, compiling a 2.81 GAA and .897 save percentage. The goalie only went 24-31-0, but was invited to participate on Team Cherry in the 2010 CHL Top Prospect game. Hockey’s Future describes Clermont as:
A solid goaltender, Clermont plays the angles well and shows a willingness to aggressively challenge opposing shooters. Controlling rebounds well and having a good glove, Clermont’s game will benefit as he gets quicker in the crease. Possessing good size, he has struggled at times tracking the puck, especially through traffic, another thing that he’ll need to improve upon.
Both goalies seem to be promising prospects. They will both need significant time to improve, but they’re both pretty young players. With Brodeur looking like he can play past the age of 40, Wedgewood and Clermont should get the time they need to improve. I don’t know if they’ll ever be big stars in net, but the preliminary analysis seems bright for the Devils’ new young goalies.