Apr 15, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur (30) makes a save during the pre game warm up against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Fansided Off-Season Q&A : New Jersey Devils

Apr 27, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New Jersey Devils right wing Ilya Kovalchuk (17) looks to pass the puck against the New York Rangers during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Middletown, N. J. – EyesOnIsles continues a tour around the Fansided network with our series of off-season Q&A with editors and writers of team websites.

With so much information available at the touch of your keyboard, it’s easy to get lost in the superhighway that is before us each and every day. Which is why we decided to draw attention to some real solid writing and opinion on other teams.

The New Jersey Devils just fought through a season of injury and hardship, arguably the worst they have encountered in the last twenty years. This is a proud franchise with great leadership at the top of the organization, mostly from general manager Lou Lamoriello.

Crafting championship teams is never easy and the Devils have often had a lineup that made you wonder how they could advance so far so many years, even to the tune of winning hockey’s ultimate prize in 1995,2000 and 2003. It was because of depth and acquiring the right players at the right time. Oh and future hall of fame goaltender Martin Brodeur didn’t hurt either.

But alas, trouble does loom large on the horizon for the Devils. Missing the playoffs two of the last three seasons will not bode well with anyone in the front office or the fanbase. But just what is there to do? With the salary cap dropping to 64.3 million for the upcoming season the Devils have only 14 players under contract with 26mm in cap space available, according to the outstanding capgeek.com.  The defense, shaky to say the least, have two big unrestricted free agents in Marek Zidlicky and Peter Harrold. Up front, David Clarkson and Patrick Elias head the forward ranks without a deal. Adam Henrique is restricted and will almost certainly remain a Devil.

With what some thought to be an egregiously over-weighted deal handed out to Travis Zajac, paying him John Tavares money,  New Jersey and their excellent general manager have to figure out some creative ways to surround superstar Ilya Kovalchuk with some offensive support. Lastly, find some future in goal, where Brodeur enters the final year of his contract and possibly, his career, at the age of 40.

Eyes asked Mike Stamas, staff writer for Pucks and Pitchforks, some questions about the Devils future and below are his responses…

1. What is the future of the crease for the Devils, with Marty Brodeur approaching retirement?

Well first thing first is there will never be another Marty, just because of his style and the way he can move the puck. But the future might not be as bleak as it seems to be in net post Brodeur era. in 2005 the Devils drafted Jeff Frazee in the second round. Jeff has had an okay career in the AHL including making the AHL all star game in 2009. That being said I think his time with the organization is done. He has an offer to play in Sweden next year, but would like to stay in North America. I don’t think the Devils will sign him though for multiple reasons. One he never really panned out, and two when Marty went down with an injury Keith Kinkaid was called up first to back up Hedberg. Kinkaid also got some NHL playing time, while Frazee saw only 19 minutes last season. Kinkaid signed with the Devils after his sophomore season with Union College of the ECAC (NCAA). There he won many honors in the conference including top goalie. In his 2 year AHL career where he split time with Frazee he, like his battery mate has been just okay. The thing to keep in mind he is still young (23 years old), and did improve slightly over the past two seasons in Albany.

In my opinion the best chance the Devils have in their pipeline is Scott Wedgewood (22 years old). Scott is the organizations #2 prospect according to Hockey’s Future. Now I don’t agree that he is that high on the list, but it shows you what kind of potential people see in him. Wedgewood might not of had stellar stats in the OHL, ECHL and AHL but he was playing behind some pretty bad teams. His true test came when he was pegged to represent Canada in the 2012 World Junior Championships. He started three games in the tourney and went 2-1. In his first game as a starter he grabbed a shutout over Czech Republic, and then beat the USA 3-2. In his loss he was pulled after giving up 4 goals. He ended the tournament with 2.42 GAA and a .916 save percentage. If I had to place money on a prospect it would be him.

The dark horse is Maxime Clermont. Spent his season in the ECHL and had an up and down year. Consistency is what is holding him back from being higher up the list. When he does get the call up to the AHL he performs very well though. in his one performance this year he had a shootout loss after only allowing one goal through 65 minutes. last year he played in two AHL games posting a 2.01 GAA and a .925 save percentage. So it’s very hard to tell with this 21 year old.

As you can tell the goaltender prospects are very young, so if Marty does hang em up after this next year my guess is we’ll see a stop gap for at least a year or two, but after that I’d look for Wedgewood.

2. Who was your biggest disappointment this season and why?

Wow, where to begin. The disappointment started on July 4th, where Zach Parise announced he chose the Wild. Next was when we looked for a replacement from within. Mattias Tedenby was given another opportunity to build on his solid rookie year and he just didn’t have it. He was counted on for providing a top six role. He wasn’t even able to give us a top nine role. Jacob Josefson had a great start to the AHL season but couldn’t put it together for the big club. Rookie Stefan Matteau played very well for a rookie but was eventually sent back to juniors, so the team was behind the eight ball from the start.Despite that the Devils got off to a real great start and were first in the East. Then the injury bug hit our two most important players, Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur. Injuries can cripple a team, and especially in a shortened season. A lot of fans might say Johan Hedberg was the biggest disappointment this year, but to be fair he lost a lot of games he had no business losing.

You can go on and on with the disappointments for the 2013 New Jersey Devils, but as a whole it was the players. Travis Zajac had his worst season in the NHL offensively. Defensively he was very good, but the point total wasn’t there. The David Clarkson disappearing act was a major disappointment after starting out so hot and then cooling off to just disappearing. Adam Henrique went through a sophomore slump, and Bryce Salvador was not very good after an outstanding 2012 and playoff run. The lack of production from our forwards minus Patrik Elias and Steve Bernier was the biggest disappointment of 2013, especially because of the injuries to Kovalchuk and Danius Zubrus.

3. What is the Devils biggest off-season need?

To me this is a no brainier. The Devils need a top six scoring winger. New Jersey is set down the middle for hopefully the forseeable future with Zajac, Adam Henrique and Andrei Loktionov. Hopefully the team resigns Elias so that takes care of a left wing spot. I think Lou will bring back Elias to a 4.5-5 million dollar deal. Next you have David Clarkson, which is very tricky. Clarkson has said he would love to resign, and that he loves New Jersey and Lou Lamoriello for giving him a shot when he thought his career was over. Lou has in return said he would love to have him back. The conflict is that Clarkson could get an upwards of five million dollars a year on the market. I don’t think he is worth that much, even if coming off a 30 goal season and a 15 goal season in a half a year. I think David and Lou are sincere, but I think Clarkson goes to market gets an offer and gives Lou a chance to match it, but the money will not be right and Lamoriello will thank him for his years of service and let him get his money. This creates a huge hole for 2nd and 3rd line right wing. Kovalchuk will be playing 1st line RW, Elias, if resigned, 2nd line LW. Zajac will more than likely be Elias’ center, and Loktionov will more than likely be Kovy’s center. Henrique I think will play on the 1st line left wing with Kovalchuk. Ideally you want Clarkson and Zubrus, also if resigned, which I think they get a deal done, on the third line. This leaves a hole in the second line RW. Guys to look at before the amnesty buyouts are Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss and Derek Roy, if the money is right of course.

The third line is pretty unpredictable at this point, it hinges on who gets resigned out of Elias, Zubrus and Clarkson. The fourth line of Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta are pretty set in stone. If someone moves up it’ll more than likely Bernier leaving Carter and Gionta to play with a tough guy like Krys Barch.

So in short I think they need to resign at least 2 of the big 3 free agents which I think they retain Elias and Zubrus, I still hope for Clarkson but think he’ll get more money than he deserves in the summer, but they need to find a scoring winger, preferably right winger.

We would like to thank Mike for his participation in our series and wish the Devils all the best in the upcoming off-season (not really, but they made me say that) hee hee :)
Head on over to Pucks and Pitchforks for all your Devils needs or share them to some Dev supporters you might know or interact with.
-AG

 

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