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. Many of those breakdowns revolved around individual player performances. We broke down all players who skated in at least 40 games, because they contributed to over half the games (and outcomes) this season. In the next few days, we’ll look at “The Best of the Rest,” breaking down other players who skated in less than 40 games. Today, we’ll look at the remaining defensive players.
Of all the positions to suffer from injuries, the New Jersey Devils’ blueline was among the most volatile. They lost stalwart Bryce Salvador before the season even started, a major blow to the defensive corps. Injuries to promising rookie Matt Taormina left another hole needing to be filled. Anton Volchenkov and Colin White both missed stretches of games as well.
As a result, seven defenseman filled in, playing at least four games. Below is a list of those players and their performance this season. Some were good, others were just ok, and a few shouldn’t be back next season. We’ll take a look at them, in order of games played. And here we go:
Mark Fraser – 26 GP, 2 Points (2 A)
Fraser entered this season with a new contract (two-year, $1.085 million) and heightened expectations. He played well during the 2009-10 season, skating in 61 games and recording six points. The 2010-11 regular season would represent a major step backward. Fraser broke his hand on October 13, causing him to miss 32 games. He couldn’t consistently crack the lineup, playing in just 12 straight games.
A look at his numbers shows his general ineffectiveness. Fraser only averaged 13:58 minutes a game, managing to pull down a plus-0.18 rating. Despite a low goals-against per 60 rate (1.65 at even strength), his other numbers weren’t strong. His on-ice Corsi rating (minus-2.03) ranked far below his off-ice rating (plus-2.02). Opponents shots against fell from 26.8 with him on the ice to 24.8 with him off.
Despite it all, he still recorded a plus-1.0 GVT. I’m willing to give him a pass for this season. Both injuries and the inability to play consistently showed on the ice. He’ll battle for a spot next season, but could be pushed out with the strong play of Mark Fayne and the return of Salvador.
Matt Corrente – 22 GP, 6 P (6 A)
Like Fraser, Corrente entered the season with heightened expectations. The Devils’ first round pick (30th overall) in 2006 had yet to make his mark and earn a consistent roster spot. Training camp would be his opportunity to finally earn that spot.
Corrente performed worse than Fraser in his limited role this season. He missed 38 games with a shoulder injury, managing just an average time on ice of 13:35. He managed a plus-0.32 rating, higher than Fraser. The goals against numbers didn’t reflect well, with the team allowing more goals against with him on the ice (3.32) than him off (3.03). Shots against followed the same trend. Opponents averaged 29.3 shots per 60 with Corrente on the ice. Off the ice, that number fell to 23.3. The Corsi rating is just as bad. On the ice, the number sat at minus-0.83. Off the ice, the team improved to plus-9.63.
Despite all of that, Corrente recorded a plus-1.3 GVT. His six assists probably helped that cause, and he showed a surprising willingness to contribute offensively. He’s flashed his potential, but time might be running short. He’s a restricted free agent this summer, and the organization will probably re-sign him. He’ll find it hard to crack the lineup, especially with some rookies outplaying him over the course of the season.
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 Matchup: The New Jersey Devils (2-6-1) face off against the San Jose Sharks (3-3-1) tonight in San Jose. This is the first of two meetings between the teams this season.
The Last Devils Game: The New York Rangers defeated the Devils, 3-1, Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. After a scoreless first period in which the Devils were outshot, 17-10, the Blueshirts capitalized first, with Michael Rozsival tallying his second goal of the season at 1:26 of the second period to put the Rangers ahead, 1-0. Ryan Callahan doubled the lead, connecting on the powerplay to put the Rangers ahead, 2-0, at 12:22 of the second period. Ilya Kovalchuk closed the gap to one goal, cutting the Blueshirts lead to 2-1 with 5:02 left in the third period. But the Rangers held on, and Brandon Dubinsky put home an empty-net shot to clinch the 3-1 victory.
The Last Sharks Game: The Calgary Flames blanked the Sharks, 4-0, Sunday night in Calgary. The Flames chased Sharks goalie Antti Niemi after the Stanley Cup champion allowed three goals to Rene Bourque, Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy on five shots in the first period. Antero Niittymaki stopped 24 shots in relief. Miikka Kiprusoff made 27 saves for the shutout win.
The Last Devils – Sharks Game: The Devils defeated the Sharks, 4-3, in their only meeting on March 2 in San Jose. Dainius Zubrus scored the game’s first goal, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead at 11:13 of the second period. Mark Fraser scored 35 seconds later to increase the lead to two. The Devils continued to pound the Sharks, with Kovalchuk extending the Devils lead to three with a powerplay tally at 19:42.
The Devils completed an unanswered four-goal streak at 5:44 of the third period, when Travis Zajac scored his then-20th goal of the season. The Sharks, however, wouldn’t go quietly. They broke the shutout at 8:46 of the period on a Devin Setoguchi goal. Less than two minutes later, Setoguchi struck again, tallying a powerplay goal and cutting the Devils lead to 4-2. Joe Pavelski scored the third straight goal for San Jose to bring the score to 4-3. But the Devils were able to hold on for the victory.
For a look at the full historical matchup, take a look at our season preview post detailing the matchup with the San Jose Sharks.
Tonight’s Matchup: It’s a pretty simple gameplan for the Devils – play a complete, 60-minute game with the effort needed to win a hockey game. Martin Brodeur kept the Devils in the game against the Rangers Sunday night, keeping them afloat throughout the first period. While the Rangers brought relentless pressure, the Devils failed to make Henrik Lundqvist work. They put little to no pressure on the Rangers defense. The second period brought much of the same, but this time Brodeur couldn’t save New Jersey.
The third period – the best since the 3-0 shutout win over Montreal on October 15 – showed what the Devils need to do in tonight’s matchup. In the third, the Devils controlled the puck and pressured the Rangers defense. They worked hard on the forecheck and created opportunities throughout the period. The result? A dirty goal and some great play.
But the play in the third period can’t be a one-time thing. This team needs to bring that hunger and aggressive play to the ice during every shift. We’ve already seen the byproduct of that type of play, with two shutout wins on the road. That hasn’t been a consistent effort, and it’s become one of the many driving forces behind the teams 2-6-1 start. An aggressive start, especially during an away game, will help silence the crowd and give the Devils an early advantage.
As I detailed in an earlier post, this game begins an important five game stretch for the Devils. New Jersey needs to put together a consistent effort and get some wins. Hopefully tonight’s game against the Sharks will be the first step in the right direction.
Remember to check in with The Devils’ Den at 10:15 p.m. for a live game blog of all the action!
To hold you over until tonight’s 7 p.m. puck drop, it’s today’s edition of The Devils’ Sports Page:
Devils defenseman Mark Fraser out 4-to-6 weeks with fractured right hand; Rolston surgery a success (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
MacLean looking at options for Friday’s lineup after tonight’s call ups (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Devils call up Josefson, Sestito, Corrente (Tom Gulitti/Fire and Ice blog)
Matt Corrente, disappointed with demotion, glad to be back with Devils (Rich Chere/NJ.com)
Win-win situation for Devils (Mark Everson/NY Post)
Kell Named Captain For Second Straight Season (Mike Ashmore/Inside The Trenton Devils)
Media Day Update (Mike Ashmore/Inside The Trenton Devils)
New Jersey had the cap space to call up the three players because of the sports hernia injury to left-winger Brian Rolston. The Devils’ left-winger underwent successful surgery to repair the injury yesterday, and should miss four to six weeks. The Devils placed Rolston on the LTIR, giving them the ability to play at $5,062,500 over the salary cap.
MacLean was excited to finally have a full lineup.
“Definitely,” the Devils’ coach said. “Three young guys getting called up, we’ll get some energy and keep improving on our play.”
Today’s callups put the Devils at 22 skaters, which includes injured defenseman Anton Volchenkov, who has missed this week’s games with a broken nose and stiff neck. It is the first time all season the Devils have rostered over 20 skaters.
Both Sestito and Corrente have NHL experience. Sestito has played ten NHL games, including nine with the Devils last season, when he recorded one assist. Corrente played 12 regular season games and two playoff matches last season. Josefson is looking to make his NHL debut.
MacLean hoped he would dress 20 players for tomorrow night’s game against the Colorado Avalanche.
It wasn’t all good news today for the Devils. The team announced that defenseman Mark Fraser will miss four to six weeks with a fractured right hand.
Devils general manager and president Lou Lamoriello said Fraser’s injury didn’t occur in last night’s fight with Buffalo’s Cody McCormick Wednesday night.
“It was an injury that he had earlier, but I don’t think the fight helped it,” Lamoriello said.
Fraser had surgery this morning to place a pin in his hand. There hasn’t been a decision as to whether or not he will be placed on injured reserve.
The Devils, dare I say this, needed a win tonight in Buffalo. With the injuries piling up and another game with a shorthanded team, the Devils came to Buffalo with several question marks. The teams remained scoreless, trading chances throughout regulation. When overtime started, the Devils got the better opportunity, and they finally converted, as Ilya Kovalchuk‘s first goal of the season gave the Devils a 1-0 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres.
1. Kovalchuk’s First Goal Wins The Devils’ First Game
The Devils had several chances throughout the game, but Ryan Miller and some ill-timed misses kept the game scoreless. Heading into overtime, it seemed like the Devils were on the doorstop, but couldn’t knock down the door. That would all change on one shot.
The Devils, as they had for two of the three periods in tonight’s game, dominated the flow of overtime. The team already had three shots on net as Jamie Langenbrunner handled the puck at center ice. Instead of passing to Kovalchuk, Langenbrunner sent the puck to a streaking Matt Taormina, who carried the puck to the left circle. Taormina momentarily lost control of the puck, but quickly gained it back. The rookie defenseman sent a pass to Kovalchuk in the circle, who dropped to one knee and rifled a shot on net. The puck hit the crossbar but found it’s way into the net for the game-winning goal, his first of the season.
2. Martin Brodeur and Miller Duel It Out
Whenever Brodeur and Miller play on the same ice, the ability to score goals decreases dramatically. Nowhere was that more evident than at the HSBC Center tonight. Both goalies made incredible stops to keep the game scoreless until overtime. Miller made several key saves, including stoning Langenbrunner on the crease with 5:10 left in the third period. But Brodeur equaled the effort, making a game-saving stop on Derek Roy in the second period. It only seems fitting that Brodeur would shut out the Sabres for the Devils first win of the season.
Brodeur now has 111 career shutouts, 23 of which have ended in 1-0 scores. It’s also his fourth career 1-0 overtime shutout win.
3. John MacLean Wins His First Game
Coach MacLean earned his first victory as an NHL head coach tonight, which always deserves congratulations. But it was the fire he lit during the pre-game skate that laid the foundation for the Devils solid game tonight. During the morning practice, MacLean got tired of watching the Devils go through practice with a listless attitude. After a missed pass occurred in a drill, MacLean stopped practice and let go a profanity-raced tirade at the team. After practice, he continued to prod the team through the media, believing the team didn’t have “an air of professionalism that we have to be ready to play the game.”
The team came out and played their most complete game of the night, and I believe it was that tongue-lashing that made the Devils play their best.
MacLean said his first win was a relief.
“I’m excited that we got it,” MacLean said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “It’s always good to get the first one out of the way. I’m more excited about how hard they played tonight.”
Continue reading for the rest of the recap!