Since losing the Stanley Cup Playoff Final to the Los Angeles Kings in 2012, the New Jersey Devils have failed to make the postseason in subsequent years. The good news is, the Devils’ front office is trying to rectify that problem. Thus far this offseason the team has signed six players through free agency and traded for two others.
Much of the work done so far will improve the Devils on the ice. Will it be enough to make the playoffs for the first time in four years? Fans will have to wait and see.
Many of the signings and free agent fury has been concluded, and according to HockyBuzz.com, the Devils were one of only five NHL teams to be graded as an A or better by ESPN insider Craig Custance. That alone should get fans excited, and should improve hopes of a playoff run.
New Jersey started the offseason by completing two trades at the end of June. First the team sent a 2016 third-round draft pick to Pittsburgh for right wing Beau Bennett. Bennett played in only 33 games for the Penguins last season, but should add considerable depth to the Devils.
The big trade, however, was the acquisition of right wing Taylor Hall. The 24-year-old brings youth to the side and last season scored 26 goals and added 39 assists in 82 games for Edmonton. His signing was a steal for the Devils.
Free agents in
Six free agents have been brought in by New Jersey, with the cream of the crop being former Penguin Ben Lovejoy. The defender arrives on a three-year, $8 million contract. He will play an important role in the Devils’ defense now that David Schlemko is in San Jose.
Thirty-six-year-old Vernon Fiddler has also arrived after five seasons with the Dallas Stars. The center should give the Devils even more depth at the position. Left wing Luke Gazdic also arrived from Edmonton, though he will play a smaller role than former Oilers’ teammate Hall.
Meanwhile, the Devils added minor league players Andrew MacWilliam, Carter Camper and Karl Stollery, all to one-year contracts.
Free agents out
Defender David Schlemko will be a major loss for the Devils. The defenseman signed with the San Jose Sharks this offseason in a four-year, $8.4m deal. Schlemko’s loss will hurt, but the Devils’ front office will hope it has done enough to limit any effects of his exit.
The Devils lost Jim O’Brien to the Colorado Avalanche after only one season in New Jersey. His loss shouldn’t hurt the Devils, however, as he only featured in four games in 2015-16. Mike Sislo joins O’Brien in Colorado after playing only 42 games in three seasons for New Jersey. Like O’Brien, he will be a player that the Devils won’t miss.
Outlook for 2016-17
The Devils have done some excellent business this offseason. A tweak here or there in the lead up to training camp, and the Devils could turn that A grade from ESPN into an A+.
By Drew Farmer