NHL Free Agency 2012: Will 2013 Mark a Rebuilding Year for the N.J. Devils?

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NHL Free Agency 2012: Will 2013 Mark a Rebuilding Year for the N.J. Devils?
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With former New Jersey Devil Zach Parise defecting to Minnesota, the Devils have to figure out how to move forward and rebuild. Parise may only be one player, but he was an important cog in New Jersey’s power play, one of three 30-plus goal scorers on the team and, most importantly, their captain.

Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello recently spoke about how difficult life without Parise will be for New Jersey.

"You don't replace a Zach Parise. You just don't do that,” Lamoriello told the Star Ledger. “So we will have to make some adjustments and make some transactions if possible. But we will not turn our heads and not go forward with reference to getting this team to where we feel it should be every year."

Fortunately for the Devils, they have re-signed most of their Eastern Conference championship-winning team, including legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur, backup goaltender Johan Hedberg, defensive leader Bryce Salvador and their dynamic fourth-liners Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta.

However, there is a hole in the Devils’ top line and they need to figure out how to fill it.

The most obvious choice is free-agent Alexander Semin, who had some experience playing internationally with Devils’ leading goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk.

Uniting the two Russians on the Devils’ top line could transform Semin back to the 30-plus goal-scoring sniper he once was. Kovalchuk and Semin on one line could easily be a goaltender’s worst nightmare.

The Devils have added opportunistic passing and two-way play to Kovalchuk’s game and can work the same wonders for Semin’s.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

While that is certainly a deal for New Jersey fans to salivate over, Devil fans should not worry if this option does not pan out.

 

New Jersey’s Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias were both ranked in the top 10 for most points during the past season—Kovalchuk was ranked fifth and Elias was ranked 10th. New Jersey’s goals will come even if they cannot pick up a top forward, like Semin, from free agency.

Adam Henrique had a great first season with the Devils (16 G, 35 A, 51 PTS), which ultimately made him a Calder Trophy finalist. The rookie has a lot of potential and should be an asset to New Jersey in the upcoming season.

The Devils’ developing ability showed in David Clarkson, who went from enforcer to goal scorer, putting up 30 goals in the past season. 

Forward Travis Zajac, who missed a majority of last season recovering from a sore Achilles tendon, is capable of 60-point seasons and is aching to play a full season for the first time in over a year.

Parise’s absence is not the end of New Jersey’s offense. However, the Devils still need a new captain.

Elias has held the captain job before and can definitely do it again. The Czech native is one of the most consistently high-scoring veterans in the league and has won two Stanley Cups with the New Jersey Devils.

Kovalchuk, the former captain of the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets), is also a contender for the captain position. His long-term commitment to New Jersey and high-caliber play makes him an ideal candidate for the job.

Parise’s commitment to the Minnesota Wild is very disappointing for the Devils, but New Jersey will prevail. They have moved on from previous defectors in the past—Scott Niedermayer and Scott Gomez—and will ultimately move on from Parise.

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