The New Jersey Devils have made some tremendous moves so far this off-season, and yet they still have more to do. The Devils were a very sub-par 38-36-8 last season and failed to make the playoffs, finishing seventh in the Metropolitan Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. Sadly this is something that Devils fans are growing accustomed to. They have not made it to the playoffs since the 2009-2010 season when they had a young Zach Parise and Travis Zajac leading the way. This year they were led by right winger Kyle Palmieri who had the most points (57) and goals (30) on his team.
Key Off-Season Signings
Devils GM Ray Shero has been making moves for his team this off-season, trying to bulk up his roster the best he can to make them competitive in the playoffs next year. So far this free agency the Devils have acquired:
Kyle Palmieri – W – RS*
Taylor Hall – W
Ben Lovejoy – D
Vernon Fiddler – C
Devante Smith-Pelly – W – RS*
Jon Merrill – D – RS*
Beau Bennett – W – RS*
Andrew MacWilliam – D
Carter Camper – C
Karl Stollery – D
Jacob Josefson – C – RS*
Luke Gazdic – W
Sergey Kalinin – C – RS*
Michael McLeod – C – Draft 12th overall
Nathan Bastian – W – Draft 41st overall
(*RS – re-signed)
There are some key signings in this list of players. For starters, acquiring 24-year-old Taylor Hall in a trade for Adam Larsson was probably the best move they’ve made so far. Hall was a 65 point man last season for the Oilers and now has a chip on his shoulder after his less-than-peaceful departure. As reported by Fire and Ice, Hall said: “It’s safe to say that I’m a very motivated hockey player now”, and Devils fans should be very excited about that.
Ben Lovejoy is another key player they acquired and will be filling the hole of Adam Larsson. Lovejoy is a strong right-handed replacement for Larsson and has tremendous value as a member of his new team.
Vernon Fiddler and Beau Bennett are both good depth forwards on a team that was very lacking in depth on their roster last season.
The Devils also re-signed 25-year-old Kyle Palmieri to a five-year deal, which fans thought was inevitable. Palmieri led the team in scoring last season and, as he continues to grow and develop his game, will be a huge piece of the puzzle moving forward.
Key Off-Season Losses
As good as the Devils off-season has been so far, they did lose defenseman David Schlemko to the San Jose Sharks. The 6’1’’ defenseman scored 19 points last season and is an 8-year veteran of the league. His loss will surely be felt on the team, but they are hopeful that the acquisition of Lovejoy, as well as another veteran defender, will offset his loss.
Star Players of Next Season
The most obvious choice for star player of next season has to be the Devils new signing Taylor Hall. The team is very happy with the pick-up of this young star and expect great things from him next season. 26 points and 39 assists is very good production for a sixth-year skate, who possesses an incredible potential to grow.
Another star of next season has to be the re-signed Kyle Palmieri. He led his team in goals and points last season, as well as being second in assists, and was arguably their best player. Last season was the best of his young career and his first in New Jersey. He has been steadily improving every year since he came into the league in 2010, and after signing his new five-year deal to stay in New Jersey his future is looking bright.
The star defenseman I see for the Devils next season has to be their recently acquired Ben Lovejoy, from the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. The 6’2’’ defenseman now knows exactly what it takes to make it through the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup, so his experience along with defensive production will be key assets for the team.
In the Metropolitan Division, there are not many teams that the Devils are big fans of. You’re bound to have some bad blood with just about every team in your region, but the Devils have two teams that they particularly do not like; The New York Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers. We’re going to discuss a little bit about both of these rivals and what moves they have made this off-season.
New York Rangers
Since the opening of free agency on July 1, the Rangers have been oddly quiet for the most part. For starters, they named Jeff Beukeboom their assistant coach. As far as players, they have agreed to terms with D Michael Grabner on a two-year contract, and D Michael Paliotta, F Nathan Gerbe and D Adam Clendening on one-year contracts.
On July 1 Philadelphia signed forward Dale Weise to a four-year contract, as well as forwards Boyd Gordon, Andy Miele, Greg Carey, and defenseman Will O’Neill to one-year contracts.
So the good news for Devils so far is that their division rivals have not done a whole lot to improve their teams, but then again, both of those teams made the playoffs last year while New Jersey failed to do so.
Taking everything that has happened so far this off-season into perspective, I think New Jersey fans should be very excited about what their team has done thus far. I would argue that they are one of the most improved teams in the entire Eastern Conference. There may be a few small moves left to make, such as signing another veteran defenseman to help anchor it down. I’d love to see them sign a player like 26-year-old Luke Schenn, who would be a bit of a leap to get but would secure the team’s defense for the foreseeable future.
I can see New Jersey easily competing and making the playoffs next season, even though they are in a very tough Metropolitan Division along with the Penguins, Rangers, Capitals, Flyers and Islanders. If they can make the playoffs and even make some sort of run this year it will speak volumes to how much the team has improved, and the potential they hold moving forward.