Outlook of the New Jersey Devils Heading to the Draft and Free Agency
The 2012-13 season for the New Jersey Devils can be seen as a season lost to a lack off offensive production, loss of steady defense, and the absence of a true identity compared to the team that had run all the way to the finals the year before. With that being said, the Devils are in control of their own destiny heading into a very deep draft with a ninth overall pick. Amid much speculation and rumor talk, here are some of the options and needs that the Devils will have heading into the entry draft and free agency:
1. Trade for first overall pick
The Devils, as shown numerous times during their 2013 shortened campaign, were not short on shots on goal. What they were short on, however, was goals scored per game. A trade for the first overall pick is something that may be in the mix for the Devils, as it would give them immediate scoring help and a dynamite threat to play alongside Ilya Kovalchuk. Avalanche asisstant GM and coach Patrick Roy has hinted at shopping his draft pick around, and it will for sure result in the Devils picking a high end winger like Jonathan Drouin or Nathan Mackinnon. The Devils can offer up a package deal of sorts that would address the Avalanche’s needs, such as sending over Adam Larsson (an NHL ready defenseman who does not see playing time) along with the ninth overall pick or something along those lines. It is not a “Lou” type move, but it is certainly something that will have the attention of the front office in Newark.
2. Trading David Clarkson’s rights for an additional draft pick
Whoever re-signs David Clarkson, the potential payout will be huge. At age 29, this power forward put up 30 goals and 46 points in the 2011-2012 season, in addition to scoring 15 goals in a shortened lockout run this year. When comparing that to his penalty minutes (138 in 2011-12 and 78 in 2013), it displays stats typical of a top five power forward in the league. He has very quick hands and loves to stand in front of the net, a tool that many teams (including the Devils) could use. However, he is not worth a potential asking price upwards of $4.5 million, especially considering the budget issues of the New Jersey Devils. Trading his rights would allow for a potential second rounder or even late first rounder to be sent to New Jersey at a time where they could really use it. To top it all off, the Devils have a guy by the name of Reid Boucher in their system, who scored upwards of 60 goals in this year’s OHL season with the Sarnia Sting. He is credited with a great release and nice hands as well.
3. Trading for a first round pick in the 2014 draft
As a result of the Ilya Kovalchuk contract, the Devils had to give up a first round pick between the years of 2010 and 2014. With the Devils having picks in the 2010 (given to Chicago), 2011 (4th overall Adam Larsson), and 2012 (29th overall Stefan Matteau) drafts in the first round, they’ll have to forfeit next year’s pick in what is turning out to be a fairly deep draft as well. Giving up some of the Swedish players who haven’t surfaced yet such as Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby, as well as possibly a pick from this year and Adam Henrique (he will be re-signed) will more than do enough. Obviously, the trade just suggested is a bit one sided, but something could be worked out if needed.
4. Re-sign the key players, dump the ones that did not work, don’t overpay
Yes, anyone with half a brain can make that statement, but hear this out. The Devils have 8 UFAs and 6 RFAs at the NHL level currently and are not in possession of all of the cap room to give them what they desire. There are certain role players within a system, there are superstars, and then there are players who haven’t surfaced yet or are too old to come back.Lou Lamoriello has already given up the fact that he will not be sending qualifying offers to Steve Sullivan or Matt D’Agostini, which leaves 7 UFAs and 5 RFAs. The Devils have only 6 forwards committed for next year coming back from this year’s squad, and they have signed Joe Whitney to an NHL deal. Certain players like Patrik Elias, Andrei Loktionov, and Adam Henrique are givens to return, however the Devils have to take a fine look as to whether or not they want to fork up the money for David Clarkson, an aging Dainius Zubrus, a traveling handyman in Alexei Ponikarovsky, and whether or not to bring back overachieving AHLer Peter Harrold as well as aging and controversial Marek Zidlicky.Here’s how ideally it should all go down:-Marek Zidlicky gets a 2 year deal at a discount, long enough to make friend Patrik Elias bight and to run the point on the power play-Peter Harrold is either signed or dumped, no more than $1.5 million AAV-Dainius Zubrus is brought back to help mentor Matteau and run the forecheck at around $2 million-David Clarkson is either re-signed at $4.5/year for 7-8 years (frontloaded contract) or he’s dumped-Steve Sullivan will be dumped and likely will enter retirement or play as a rental in a different city
- Alexei Ponikarovsky is allowed to walk
-Josefson is re-qualified on a two way deal worth about $1,000,000 at the NHL level or $525,000 at the AHL level
-Adam Henrique is given a 6-8 year deal worth anywhere from $2-4 million/year
-Andrei Loktionov is given a 1-3 year deal at the same price as Henrique
-Mike Sislo gets an AHL contract
-Harri Pesonen is given a two way deal
-Tom Kostopulos walks if Cam Janssen doesn’t and vice versa
-All of the remaining questionable AHLers are left up to the decision of the Albany Devils, minus goaltenders Jeff Frazee, Keith Kinkaid, and forward Matt Anderson
5. Buyout Anton Volchenkov or Henrik Tallinder
Under the new CBA, two amnesty buyouts are allowed per season. With that the Devils have to give up Anton Volchenkov. Even though finances are tight, there is no way that the Devils can afford to have him playing. Volchenkov has really slowed down these last two seasons and has even lost an edge to his game after sustaining an ankle injury in Russia this season playing in the KHL. He does not hit like he used to, he doesn’t kill penalties like he used to, and most importantly, he doesn’t defend like he used to. To top it all off, the man is making just over $4 million a year, money far above his worth. The laws of economics state that opportunity cost is the cost of the next best asset that is given up. The Devils are wasting valuable cap space and playing time to younger defensemen by having Volchenkov in the mix. What is worse is that Peter DeBoer continually tries to use him, and it fails nearly every time.The same can be said about aging Swede Henrik Tallinder, who was out last year with a clogged artery in his leg and returned during the Stanley Cup Final. He hasn’t been very productive and his game has taken a step backwards. That being said, he had a very impressive showing at the IIHF World Championships and he showed poise with the puck that ultimately won his country the gold medal.No question, if a buyout happens, it has to be used on Volchenkov.
6. Trade for Thomas Vanek, Bobby Ryan, or a UFA from 2014
This one is a bit harder, especially considering how the Devils would be giving up almost too much to make something happen, but here is how this would work.Bobby Ryan has long had fits with Anaheim management, and with two supersized deals to Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf this past season, the Ducks are running out of space for a guy like Ryan, whose dream is to come play in his home town of Philadelphia (really Cherry Hill, NJ). However, Jersey is not such a bad alternative, considering he would see top line minutes alongside one of the world’s premiere wingers and he would be unquestionably more satisfied and closer to home.The only thing that makes Vanek even possible is the fact that he is a UFA in 2014 on a struggling team that is in the process of cleaning house and starting over. Vanek can be a very versatile guy who plays well on even strength and the power play, with very good hands and a very high quality shot release. He is also, however, very injury prone and streaky, but he would be welcome on any team any day of the week.Other 2014 UFAs include stars Evgeni Malkin, Dany Heatley, Marian Gaborik, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Pavel Datsyuk, the Sedin twins, Phil Kessel, and more. However, most of these players are either past their primes or are nearly guaranteed big fact contracts by their current clubs. The ladder including goaltending UFAs Henrik Lundqvist and Ryan Miller.
7. Find a new assistant coach to run the power play
This is a new one. Matt Shaw, the man who was brought in to replace Adam Oates and help out the abhorrent New Jersey PP has accepted a head coaching job with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL. This means there is an opening behind the bench. The PP this season actually went backwards and looked incredibly stagnant at times. The Devils will have to find someone who can fill the role not only on paper but in practicality.
8. Address the goaltending situation
When Martin Brodeur went down to injury, the Devils found themselves on quite the six game losing skid. Johan Hedberg just could not keep up with the demand of a starting job. The Devils have the oldest goaltending tandem in the league by average age (by far, actually, at 40.5 years) and there is a world of uncertainty surrounding the team’s future after Martin Brodeur calls it quits as well as when that time actually is. Brodeur has indicated that he wants to play well into his forties if his body allows him to, however he is not quite sure as to what capacity he will see the crease at. Keith Kinkaid, Scott Wedgewood, Maxime Clermont, and Jeff Frazee are among the names in the mix as the heir to the throne between the pipes, however, numerous scouts and analysts alike do not like their chances, and the Devils have a golden opportunity with two very big names hitting the open market after next season with quite a few miles left in the tank, including the afformentioned Lundqvist and Miller. The call at least has to be put in.
9. Truthfully sit down and think about what went wrong and why
This year was one of the most disappointing and frustrating seasons on record for the Devils. While it was a shortened season, let’s not forget the last time there was a labor stoppage for half of a season, they won the Stanley Cup. The Devils’ effort was there on and off the ice, but eventually dejection set in along with injuries and things went downhill. The Devils are by no means a deep team, and they have to address that issue. They also have to deal with the fact that the media is now actually talking about them instead of leaving them in a dark corner and posing them as underdogs.
10. Admit that this season was indeed a disappointment and part of a larger problem overall
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that there is one. The Devils have yet to reveal or even show that they indeed have, as most of the words out of the coaching staff and front office have been beating around the bush.
The Devils have quite a lot on their table, but they will indeed go to work very soon and come back fighting next year like they always do.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @dmmm14
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