Brendan Shanahan Returns to New Jersey

levinakl@levinaklCorrespondent IIIJanuary 11, 2009

After many, many rumors throughout the summer and into the beginning of the season, GM Lou Lamoriello has brought back the player he drafted first, the No. 2 overall pick, back in 1987, Brendan Shanahan. 

Shanahan, who later left New Jersey to join the St. Louis Blues via free agency (in a transaction that saw the Devils get back Scott Stevens as compensation), returns to the team he played his first 281 career games with.

Shanahan had 88 goals and 126 assists in those games with New Jersey, and has had a storied career, playing 1490 career games with five total franchises, scoring 650 goals and posting 690 assists. 

He is a proven special teams player, who should contribute immediately to the Devils, especially on the power play.  He also adds a good amount of leadership to the locker room, and should gain immediate respect.

While bringing in Shanahan to bolster the offense, the immediate question is: Who will immediately be removed from the lineup?

The immediate candidates, assuming no trade is in the works, are Jay Pandolfo and Mike Rupp.  I think the best selection would be to sit Pandolfo because of his lackluster play this season. 

Pandolfo, who has normally been a defensive stalwart in past seasons, has not seemed to be able to get on track thus far this year, and has struggled on both sides of the ice. 

Never known for his offensive prowess, Pandolfo has contributed as a prime penalty killer, and good defensive player in previous years. 

Unfortunately, that has not been the case this year, as Pandolfo has really struggled with his defensive play, often has been knocked off the puck a little too easily, and has been a clear disappointment after re-signing with the Devils this past July 1st.

As for Rupp, I don't see how the Devils could afford to keep his physical play out of the lineup.  Even when the team struggled against Atlanta, Rupp still had a decent performance, and even drew a four-minute penalty from Eric Boulton. 

Even though that penalty didn't lead to a goal on the ensuing power play, it's the type of play the Devils will continue to need on a going forward basis. 

While Shanahan is very solid in a lot of different areas, he will not be able to replace the physical element Rupp brings on a nightly basis.

It will be interesting to see how Shanahan fits into the Devils when he becomes ready to play.  I'd expect it to be at least a week before you see him in the lineup, but that's only a guess. 

My guess would be the January 21st, when the Devils return to the Prudential Center to play the Montreal Canadiens.  That game would also be two days before Shanahan turns 40.

Let's hope that Shanahan has enough left in the tank to bring some leadership and good play for the Devils.  Some may dispute now whether or not that will happen, but only time will tell whether or not this signing was a good one.

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