NJ Devils offseason moves

So I’ve been paying a lot of attention to what the Devils have done lately during the offseason since not making the playoffs in 2013 and figured I’d give my ‘two cents’ on the recent moves.

First off, the Devils started the offseason off with a bang when they traded their first round pick to Vancouver for Cory Schneider. No cash exchanging hands, no future considerations, a one-for-one trade that in my opinion is HUGE for the future of this franchise!

It’s no secret, Marty Brodeur isn’t getting any younger and while he’s still an amazing goaltender and still quite reliable, his body just isn’t holding up the way it used to and Johan Hedberg, while he’s a good backup, if Marty’s out for an extended period of time (like he was this past year), just isn’t the goaltender that Marty is.

Marty has been the netminder for New Jersey now since the 93-94 season and in 20 years, has racked up just about every record imaginable for a goaltender to have along with 3 Stanley Cups, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 4 Vezina Trophies,  5 Jennings Trophies, a World Cup of Hockey, and is a 10-time NHL All Star. Add to that, that he’s a throwback to a time when players would be drafted & play their entire career for one team. The guy has basically achieved everything that there is to achieve at his position…even some things that most other goaltenders have NEVER achieved. Goaltenders don’t score goals, right? He did it three times, once in the playoffs even! Hell, the NHL even had to make a rule to hinder his style of play to keep him from playing the puck every time it hit the end boards!

But Marty’s now 41 years old and his career is winding down, so Lou went out and made a deal to bring a top-5 goaltender in to New Jersey to be Brodeur’s successor. The big question of “What do the Devils do when Marty decides to call it a career?” has now been answered. Cory Schneider is 27 years old, has experience at the NHL level, has played behind another goaltender who maybe isn’t Marty Brodeur (but then again, who really is?), but is another top goaltender in his own rite in Roberto Luongo. So the guy knows what it’s like shadowing a legend and at least in New Jersey, he knows he’s the heir to the throne. Terrific move Lou!

The rest of the draft was pretty run of the mill, with Lou picking up some quality young players that can help the team in the future, but in another classy move, Lou traded for the 208th pick to draft Marty Brodeur’s son, Anthony Brodeur (another goaltender, I know..shocker, right?). I mean the kid literally learned from the best. So the future of the goaltender position for the Devils is secure.

Unfortunately, David Clarkson decided to sign with his hometown team of the Toronto Maple Leafs once he became an unrestricted free agent. His production will be missed in New Jersey, he was a key player in the Devils making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals back in 2012. But the biggest hit to the lineup was still to come…

Ilya Kovalchuk decided to retire from the NHL to return to Russia to play for St. Petersburg. The good news here was that he would be forfeiting the remaining $77 million left on his 15-year, $100 million contract for the team who is now behind on payments on their brand new, beautiful Prudential Center arena in Newark. From what I’ve read, missing the playoffs this past year hurt them quite a bit financially by not being able to collect on the ticket sales for a hopefully long playoff run as they’ve become known to be able to produce. The other bad news is that the Devils now not only can’t count the offensive production that Clarkson brought to the team, but now their superstar player who sells a lot of jerseys and has been the face of the team for the last couple of years is now also gone, and the only thing the franchise has to show for it is a $250k hit on the salary cap.

That’s a pretty daunting task now that most of the free agent pool has dried up since most of the players have been signed with very few holdouts for better deals. So Lou once again goes back to the drawing board & finds a solution in international superstar forward, Jaromir Jagr! Granted, he’s not what he was when he played for Pittsburgh, but he’s super talented, has TONS of experience playing both internationally and stateside for Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, Dallas, Boston & even across the river for the Rangers. The guy has been around, and while his production might not be what it was, his experience can be passed on to the younger guys like Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Adam Larsson & Andrei Loktionov. There have also been reports that at team practices, he tends to be one of the guys who is always the first one to show up & the last one to leave, so he sets a great example for the young guys. Plus from a financial perspective, he’s only signed to a one-year contract for a guaranteed $2M with $2M in incentives. Along with that, he’s a bigtime marketable face for the team that can definitely generate ticket sales along with jersey sales. (Who doesn’t want a #68 Jagr Devils jersey?)

So while it might not look so bright ahead for the Devils, I’m taking a “wait and see” approach to see if maybe they’re able to offset the lack of goal production with stellar goaltending so they’re able to still eek out wins the old fashioned way — at least for this team, anyway. I’m excited for the 2013-2014 season, it can’t come soon enough for me!

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