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 enter this year’s draft with unexpected goalie depth. With Martin Brodeur admitting he’s contemplating retiring in the next few years, the organization needed to prepare for the future. All of their other picks, from Ari Ahonen to Jeff Frazee, have failed to live up to expectations. But the newest class shows some promise, allowing the Devils to focus their draft research on other areas of weakness.
In today’s organizational depth preview, we’ll take a look at the goalies throughout the system and those prospects yet to turn pro. If this past season is any indication, the Devils 2009 draft should help produce a solid NHL goalie.
Albany Devils (AHL)
Mike McKenna – 39 GP, 14-20-2, 3.61 G.A.A, 0.866 Save %
McKenna provided valuable depth this season, but not much else. The veteran AHL-er had his first losing season since turning pro, posting abysmal numbers across the board. Albany struggled defensively for much of the season, which is partly to blame for poor showing. But he also won’t become an elite goalie. He’s a great depth piece, and maybe he sticks around. But the Devils won’t look toward McKenna to become a franchise cornerstone anytime soon.
Jeff Frazee – 33 GP, 11-15-3, 2.90 G.A.A, .902 Save %
Frazee seems to be running out of time with the organization. Hockey’s Future ranks him 11th, barely ahead of recent draft selections Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont. After a stellar season last year, Frazee took a major step backward this season. He battled inconsistency and, like McKenna, shoddy defense. He also dealt with several injuries this season, the most notable being a knee injury that required exploratory surgery. He’s a restricted free agent this season, and will probably be resigned by the organization. With Clermont and Wedgewood probably a year away from turning pro, he’ll have one more shot to solidify his position within the organization. Another down year might cost him.
Dave Caruso – 18 GP, 7-8-0, 3.57 G.A.A, .880 Save %
Caruso has never been a standout prospect in the organization. Since joining the Trenton Devils during the 2007-08 season, he’s recorded just one winning season. Despite the lack of success, he’s found a way onto the AHL roster for the past three seasons. He doesn’t seem like a prospect prepared to make a jump past that level. He may spend time in the AHL next season as a backup.
Trenton Devils (ECHL)
Jeff Lerg – 27 GP, 13-12-0-1, 3.15 G.A.A, .903 Save %
Lerg is one of the underrated prospects in the system. The numbers aren’t great, but he has potential to be a solid goalie. He served as captain of the Michigan State hockey team, breaking the CCHA save record and finished second all time in the NCAA in saves. Trenton, like Albany, struggled this season defensively, probably contributing to his pedestrian numbers. It’s his second season in the organization, and if he can improve, he should rise in the organization.
Admittedly, one of my weaker points of hockey knowledge is the prospect pool. With so many players in several countries, I haven’t had the time to catch up on the big names and the late-round steals.
Thankfully, Jared Ramsden does this all the time. Ramsden writes for Hockey’s Future, specifically covering the New Jersey Devils. He found some time to answer a few questions I sent him about the Devils’ prospects and this year’s draft. Here is the interview:
It’s finally gameday, as the New Jersey Devils and Montreal Canadiens face off tonight at the Prudential Center. A game preview will be up soon, but to hold you over, here’s today’s edition of The Devils’ Sports Page:
Ilya Kovalchuk still searching for goals as pressure mounts (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Devils turned a profit in 2009-10, but lost value (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Jason Arnott, David Clarkson back for Devils practice (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Emotional journey for Devils right-winger David Clarkson (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Devils’ Stephen Gionta hoping for chance to play against brother Brian (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Langenbrunner, Arnott, Corrente feel ready to play; MacLean to make decision on Gionta in morning (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Jamie Langenbrunner ready to return to an upbeat Devils squad (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Bourne Blog: How Kovalchuk can salvage dismal offensive season (Justin Bourne/PuckDaddy.com)
Forbes magazine says Devils are 11th most valuable NHL franchise (Rich Chere/The Star-Ledger)
Penguins Take Down Devils, 5-1 (AlbanyDevils.com)
Devils powerless against league leading Penguins (Pete Dougherty/TimesUnion.com)
Davis breaks franchise record for points (Pete Dougherty/TimesUnion.com)
Devils notes ‘n’ quotes: Frazee doesn’t start, but he plays (Pete Dougherty/TimesUnion.com)
Devils Angle Past Walleye, 4-2 (TrentonDevils.com)
Trenton Adds Chase Watson (TrentonDevils.com)
Devils Acquire Connelly; Lerg To 21-Day IR (Mike Ashmore/Hunterdon County Democrat)
Lerg Out With Fractured Thumb (Mike Ashmore/Hunterdon County Democrat)
The Devils made their first round of cuts today, assigning 19 players to their AHL affiliate or junior teams today.
Many of the Devils players cut today were assigned to their AHL affiliate in Albany. Those players were goaltender Dave Caruso; defensemen Mark Fayne, Dan Kelly, Tyler Miller, Chris Murray, and Harry Young; and forwards Matt Anderson, Jean-Sebastien Berube, Trevor Kell, Kory Nagy, Louis Robitaille, Myles Stoesz, Darcy Zajac, Adam Henrique and Nathan Perkovich.
The four players reassigned to their junior teams were goalies Maxime Clermont, Thomas Nesbitt, Shane Owen and Scott Wedgewood.
I have to say, I’m surprised some people remained, including right winger Mattias Tedenby. He hadn’t played well last night, but the Devils brass have faith in him and will give him another shot to impress them.
The team also kept goalies Mike McKenna and Jeff Frazee. Both looked good in their preseason debuts, and I wonder if this becomes a battle of who gets the nod to start in Albany.
There are now 43 players left in training camp. This is when the decisions get tougher, so I think we’ll see some healthy competition and great play from players looking to make the team.
Another preseason game, and the exact same result for the New Jersey Devils. The Devils lost to the rival New York Rangers, 4-3, in overtime Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. And while the team remains winless in the preseason, there were some positives to come from tonight’s game. Since it’s still the preseason, here’s some points from tonight’s game:
1. The “Liberal Line” played very well – The line of Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Ilya Kovalchuk looked really good tonight. The line played solid defensive hockey, back-checking and being responsible in their own zone. They also produced on the forecheck, causing several turnovers and disrupting the Rangers breakout. The line also produced offensively, putting up all three goals (and four assists) tonight. Even with the solid play, Kovalchuk saw room for improvement.
“I think we were OK,” Kovalchuk said to Bergen Record reporter Tom Gulitti. “We can be better. We got a couple of good chances. A couple of shifts we played in our end for like a minute. So, I think we want to play the other way, though.”
If this line and the Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Jamie Langenbrunner line can generate the scoring chances they’ve been able to generate, the Devils can have a nice one-two punch.
2. Jeff Frazee played solid hockey – Frazee’s inability to step up in the AHL has cost him the chance at a shot to back up Martin Brodeur. But tonight, Frazee stepped up in a big way. The Devils goalie made nine saves, including a few tough saves. He did allow the game-winning goal, but it was a perfect shot by Marian Gaborik in the slot. While the Devils shouldn’t need to depend on him this season, Frazee showed that he may be ready to take the next step this season.
3. The MSG Broadcast – There was no annoying Subway ad on the glass behind the nets, and they actually allowed Chico into the booth. I don’t think Chico’s great, but it was nice to hear his voice to remind me just how close we are to meaningful hockey.
And, of course, some negatives:
1. Where art thou, Brian Rolston? Rolston had 16:11 of ice time tonight, but did absolutely nothing with the opportunity. He recorded three shots on net, yet had over 12 minutes of even strength and powerplay time. Tonight’s game did nothing to help his cause, but it also didn’t showcase him to other team’s either.
2. Where’s the defense? The Devils allowed 37 shots tonight, and many of them were great opportunities. The Devils need to play better defense, and not leave it up to Brodeur or Johan Hedberg to win them the game. While it’ll happen some nights, the Devils need to tighten up defensively.
3. A losing streak already! I know it’s the preseason, and as I said in the preview, the wins aren’t important, it’s the players shaking off the rust and fighting for roster spots. But an 0-0-2 record and eight goals allowed? The Devils need to play better, and hopefully they can get out a win before the regular season starts.
The Devils next game will be on Saturday against the Rangers at the Rock. Let’s see if the Devils will put together a veteran squad and show the lineup they might play with during the regular season.
With the Devils currently quiet on the free agency market, I’ve decided to take a look at their current roster and assess some ongoing situations. One of the first positions I’ll discuss is goaltending, where Martin Brodeur is set to begin his 18th season between the pipes for the Devils.
Last year, Brodeur only made 30 starts due to a torn biceps injury. The injury-shortened season ended several streaks for the Devils goaltender. It ended Brodeur’s streak of ten consecutive seasons of 70+ starts. It also ended the streak of thirteen consecutive 30+ win seasons. Broduer, however, did enjoy success on the ice, breaking the all-time wins record and creeping closer to Terry Sawchuck’s shutout record of 103.
With all of his success, I think this year Brodeur needs to take a break. Sure, the numbers are absolutely great. Broduer has sported a GAA less than 3 and his save percentage is always in the .900. However, stats can only go so far. As we’ve seen, Brodeur’s play has slightly fallen off. We’ve seen him allow some soft goals, and at times it seems he’s less sharp than he used to be. The erstwhile goalie for the Devils isn’t getting any younger (he’s already 37), and it’s time the Devils begin to lighten the workload a bit.
Here’s where the backup goaltending situation comes into play. The Devils lost Scott Clemmensen to Florida (via free agency) and haven’t re-signed Kevin Weekes. Instead, the organization turned to Yann Danis, recently of the Islanders, and rookie Jeff Frazee. Clearly, these two aren’t the greatest options. But they can be serviceable for the Devils. I’m not implying that the Devils should only start Broduer for 40 games. But allowing him to start 70+ games is no longer going to work. They need to give their backups at least 20 games in net.
Look at what happened last year. While Brodeur was out with his injury, the Devils became a more aggressive team. They pressured on the forecheck and looked to become a more offensive team. With Brodeur back in the lineup, the team lost its aggressiveness. That leads to an increased workload, and for an older goalie that can and will add up. By giving the backup a good amount of games, the Devils can keep Brodeur fresh and potentially instill a continual aggressive system. With some more games off, Brodeur will be more fresh going into the postseason – and maybe that will help the Devils finally get out of the first round.