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.
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will break down the 2010-2011 Devils season. We’ll cover the big team stories, but also offer a breakdown of individual player performances. In our final review, we focus on Anssi Salmela.
Anssi Salmela entered the 2010-2011 regular season as one of the biggest question marks on the New Jersey Devils’ roster. After tearing his ACL in the World Championships, no one knew exactly what he could contribute. As the season progressed, it seemed the rookies would force Salmela from the lineup. But the defenseman found his way back, contributing solid minutes.
That’s about all he’d contribute. Salmela played 48 games this season, but didn’t post great offensive numbers or really stand out. He flew under the radar, which was simple considering his relatively bad play. He ranked second-to-last among all skaters in even-strength plays, and contributed little to special teams. He never stood out this season, and never quite met the already low expectations.
Salmela At Even Strength
Salmela almost exclusively played even strength this season. The defenseman averaged 17:23 of ice time and 23 shifts per game. He only 0.31 points per 60, and managed to pull down a minus-1.26. The rest of the numbers aren’t pretty either.
The Devils’ defenseman didn’t help the offense at all. On the ice, Salmela helped New Jersey score 1.47 goals per 60 (19 total) and put 23.7 shots on net. Off the ice, both of those numbers improved. Goals for per 60 shot up to 2.12, and shots for jumped to 25.7.
Defensively, he wasn’t much better. Opponents scored 2.33 goals with him on the ice and averaged 25 shots on net. With Salmela on the bench, goals against per 60 dropped to 1.72 and shots against fell to 20.6. It’s no wonder that his rating sat so low. On the ice, Salmela’s plus/minus rating was a minus-0.85. Off the ice, the rating jumped to a plus-0.40.
The Corsi numbers wrap his ineffectiveness up nicely. On the ice, Salmela recorded a minus-3.18, one of five skaters with over 40 games played carrying a minus rating. Off the ice, the team recorded a plus-9.13 rating. On the ice, Salmela didn’t help this team offensively, and couldn’t prevent scoring chances. Off the ice, they simply played better.
Salmela wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination. You can’t look at the numbers and give him credit for being solid anywhere. He finished fifth among defenseman in overall points (seven), but that isn’t impressive considering the offensive ineptitude of most blueliners. He finished behind a rookie, Mark Fayne, and the offensively challenged Anton Volchenkov.
Overall, Salmela finished with a 0.9 GVT rating. That ranked him third last among all defenseman, above replacement rookies Olivier Magnan and Alexander Urbom. He once again finished behind Fayne in this category. Yet he still skated in 48 regular season games. He provides some type of value, but not much.
Salmela enters the offseason as one of the Devils’ restricted free agents. He was outplayed by one rookie this season. The organization expects other young defenders, like Urbom and Matt Taormina, to play significant minutes next season. Salmela may be squeezed out of a roster spot.
If the numbers from this season are any indication, Salmela isn’t a great defenseman. The Devils can, and should, upgrade their blueline. Salmela barely fit in last season, and with better prospects coming through the system, he may need to find a new team soon.
One of the most overlooked hockey tournaments during the spring is the IIHF Worlds, taking place for the next few weeks in Slovakia. It’s understandable – mostly every hockey fan tunes into the Stanley Cup playoffs. For teams out of the race though, it provides a chance to watch some of their players still compete.
The New Jersey Devils have seven players participating in the tournament. Below are their names and how each of them are doing so far:
1. Travis Zajac, Canada (3 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 pts)
Zajac ended group play with three points, a strong showing for the Devils top-line center. Canada coach Ken Hitchcock named Zajac an alternate captain before the tournament started. In today’s 4-3 win over Switzerland, Zajac recorded two assists – including the primary assist on Alex Pietrangelo’s game-winning goal. Canada finished group play with eight points and won Group B.
2. Patrik Elias, Czech Republic (2 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 pts)
The Devils alternate captain still has unfinished business in international play. Despite his two Stanley Cup championships, he has yet to win a gold medal in international competition. He’s helped lead the Czechs to two wins, and they’ll finish group play against Finland tomorrow. He’s been featured in stories both on the IIHF website and NHL.com.
3. Anssi Salmela, Finland (2 GP)
Salmela has yet to record any points for Finland during this year’s world championships. If you remember, Salmela injured his ACL playing in last year’s tournament. Hopefully that won’t be his only highlight from his recent international play.
4. Ilya Kovalchuk, Russia (2 GP, 2 assists, 2 PIMS)
Kovalchuk has yet to light the lamp for Russia, but did record two assists. The Russians, who lost last year in the playoff round, 7-3, to Canada, will look to once again win the championships. They’re without Alexander Ovechkin, so Kovalchuk will be looked at to produce offensively.
5. Mattias Tedenby, Sweden (2 GP, 2 PIMS)
The Devils rookie right-winger has yet to find the lamp in this year’s world championship. In two games he’s put only three shots on net. The Swedes, 1-1 in the tournament so far, take on the US squad tomorrow. Tedenby will get to face some familiar faces in the final game of group play.
6. Nick Palmieri, United States (2 GP, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 pts)
Palmieri is tied with both Zajac and Elias for the points lead between Devils players. He’s been a solid producer, helping the Devils climb back from a 2-0 deficit yesterday against Norway. He tallied two goals in the third period – including the game winner – to keep the US undefeated during group play.
7. Mark Fayne, United States (2 GP, 1 assist, 1 pt)
Fayne’s hasn’t been as good as Palmieri, but he’s produced for the United States. He’s averaged just over 10 minutes of ice time a game for the undefeated US squad.
During the Devils last ten games, the team showed sustained flashes of potential. They began hot, winning three of the first four games. But they couldn’t continue that success, returning to their inconsistent form. New Jersey suffered through a five-game losing streak, and increased their road losing streak to seven games.
It wasn’t all bad news. Some players began to improve, and the Devils welcomed two starters back into the lineup. While it wasn’t a stretch to brag about, it showed the ability this lineup possesses.
Here are some of the major story lines from games 21-30:
1. Bringing Power to the Powerplay
Over the first 20 games of the season, the Devils powerplay went 6-for-59, an abysmal 10% success rate. In the last recap I called the special team’s laughable and lacking creativity. In the past ten games, assistant coach Adam Oates proved me wrong.
Over their past five games, the Devils are 7-for-20 with the man advantage. That’s 35%, and a marked improvement from the previous play. The Devils’ players are making the right decisions with the puck. They’re more decisive and willing to set an offensive play. Even when it doesn’t score, New Jersey’s power play boosts the offense. Patrik Elias grew into the role of “powerplay quarterback,” dictating play on ice and producing with the man advantage. He’s recorded three powerplay points in the past five games. Elias’ play displays the powerplay turnaround.
The Devils might not always score, but it’s an actual threat. For the past few seasons, that element has never presented itself. Hopefully, the team continues its strong play.
2. A Certain Left-Winger Heats Up
Elias isn’t the only scorer heating up. Ilya Kovalchuk, whose struggles are well documented, began to find his stride during the latter part of these ten games. He’s collected five points in the past five games, including two multi-point contests. Last night against Phoenix, Kovalchuk recorded his first two-goal game as a Devil. In the past ten games, Kovalchuk collected six points (three goals, three assists).
The numbers aren’t terribly impressive, but they hopefully represent a turnaround. Kovalchuk didn’t sign a 15-year, $100 million contract to be a defensive forward. The team expects him to score. The past ten games saw Kovalchuk take more shots and become more aggressive. That’s what he needs to do, and he’s reaping the rewards. If Kovalchuk can extend this streak, he’ll start collecting points in a hurry. Hopefully that’ll lead to some wins for the Devils.
3. Finally, Some Healthy Players
The Devils injury issues are well documented. They’ve lost the service of several great players, including Zach Parise. The past ten games saw a reverse trend. Instead of losing players, the Devils finally gained players back.
Martin Brodeur was the first to return. The future Hall-of-Famer missed three weeks to rest his injured elbow. He returned December 10 in a 3-1 loss to the Senators. Even though the results weren’t there, Broduer looked solid in his past three games. It’s always a boost to get an injured player back. It’s a major boost when that player is Brodeur.
The Devils’ also welcomed back defenseman Anssi Salmela. Salmela, who tore his anterior crucial ligament during the summer, made his season debut last night against the Phoenix Coyotes. He didn’t do anything significant, but his return gives the Devils a veteran presence along the blue line. Salmela also brings offensive abilities to the blueline, something the Devils’ have sorely missed.
For more of the recap, read after the jump!
There’s been some updates on several players over the past few days, so here’s a quick rundown of the conditions of those players. Thanks to both Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record and Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger for the updates.
1. Zach Parise Sheds Leg Brace
Yesterday, Gulitti reported that Parise received clearance to remove an immobilizing leg brace from his doctor yesterday. Although the left-winger is about two months away from returning, it’s a positive sign in his recovery.
2. Anssi Salmela To Play Wednesday
Salmela, who missed several months with a torn ACL, will make his return to the lineup Wednesday night against the Phoenix Coyotes. Salmela completed a conditioning stint with the Albany Devils earlier this week.
3. NHL/AHL Roster Moves
The Devils sent down Matt Corrente and Alexander Vasyunov during the weekend, and recalled both Harry Young and Dan Kelly. Kelly has already returned to Albany, and Young is expected to return when the team activates Salmela. The Devils also recalled Tim Sestito earlier today.
4. Injury Updates
Gulitti also posted several updates on injured Devils. Matt Taormina is beginning to skate after suffering a high ankle sprain, and his return won’t be anytime soon. Jacob Josefson also began skating, but like Taormina, he won’t be ready for a while. Mark Fraser appears to be the closest injured Devil ready to rejoin the team. The defenseman has skated on his own for about 10 days and, pending a visit to the doctor, should be able to return to practice soon.
The New Jersey Devils finalized their roster, making several moves to make the team cap compliant by today’s 3 p.m. deadline.
New Jersey completed a long awaited move, placing injured defenseman Bryce Salvador on the long-term injured reserve list. Salvador, who sustained a concussion in a game against Philadelphia on September 26. There is no timetable for his return.
Anssi Salmela, who I thought was already on the LTIR, was designated as a non-roster injured player. The defenseman, who tore his ACL in the World Championships this summer, did not pass his physical at the start of training camp, which qualified him as a non-roster injured player. Devils’ president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said that both the LTIR and non-roster injured player are almost one in the same.
Both Salvador and Salmela will not count against the Devils cap.
Devils’ rookie defenseman Matt Taormina was also moved today, as the Devils assigned him to Albany of the AHL. It seemed the Devils would keep both Taormina and Alexander Urbom for the start of the season, but the team opted to add an extra forward. Adam Henrique was recalled to fill his roster spot.
As it stands now, the Devils have 20 skaters on their roster (12 forwards, 6 defenseman, 2 goalies) and are $35,835 under the salary cap. But Lamoriello said this may not be the same roster as the one that will face Dallas in Friday’s opener.
“That’s just the opening day roster and rosters can changed day to day,” he said to Tom Gulitti.
That could leave open the possibility of more players being moved, especially some of the young players. This roster is far from finalized, and it’ll be interesting to see if any moves are made between now and Friday.
So the Devils will go with a roster of 20 healthy skaters to begin the regular season. Sound odd to you? Well, it’s an interesting decision, and it’s potential risks could pose huge issues for New Jersey early in the season.
Many fans and writers (including me) expected the Devils to make some moves today to get under the salary cap. We expected high-contract guys like Dainius Zubrus to spend time in the minors, and the possibility of a few trades existed as well. But, instead of a flurry of moves, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello decided to instead trust in the long-term injured reserved and a little bit of lady luck.
No moves are official yet, but it seems like Lamoriello will move Bryce Salvador to the LTIR. With the defenseman being out indefinitely with a concussion, the LTIR would allow the Devils to be cautious with Salvador’s recovery. Salvador would need to spend either 10 games or 24 days on the LTIR, giving the Devils some temporary cap relief. While his cap hit won’t come off the book, the Devils would be allowed to play over the cap. For the time being, the team could keep players like Zubrus and Colin White on the roster.
While it provides the luxury of not demoting players, using the LTIR to temporarily solve the cap problem makes the team invest heavily in luck. With both Anssi Salmela and Salvador on the LTIR, the Devils will only have 20 healthy skaters (11 offense, seven defense and two goalies). The 11 offensive skaters aren’t even enough to fill four lines. That means some big minutes for the top lines, and while it’s early in the season, the Devils will open with six games in nine days. That’s a lot of minutes on those lines, and while I’m sure the players can handle it, this is less than an ideal situation.
Maybe Lamoriello needs extra time to make some moves. That’s understandable, as deciding who to move and working out deals can take some time. He could also be using the first 10 games to decide which veteran should be placed on waivers. But this should be seen as a temporary band-aid, and not a permanent solution. The Devils need to clear cap space, not only for the present, but for later in the season. We all know championships aren’t won in September and October; sometimes, teams need to add one or two players for a cup run. The Devils, who can barely find room for Adam Mair, will need future cap space for any possible call-ups or improvements.
The Devils will try and skate by with the absolute minimum. In my opinion, it’s not the smartest of moves, but it’s what Lamoriello feels is best. He’s got an excellent track record, and he’s shown the ability to pull off great trades before. He could be buying himself some time, but if this move backfires, the Devils can be in an early hole. Every fan will hold their breath when a Devil skates gingerly off the ice or winces in pain. One injury can complicate everything.
By turning to the LTIR as a temporary solution, Lamoriello invested heavily into luck. Let’s hope the investment pays off.