New Jersey Devils: Top-6 Winger Is Devils' Most Glaring Need

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IAugust 4, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 07:  Mattias Tedenby #21 of the New Jersey Devils during the NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on January 7, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Devils defeated the Penguins 3-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

OK, so we've still got over two months to go before the New Jersey Devils open up the official regular season against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that as Devils fans, we are second guessing management, wondering where their heads are at and how they are going to attempt to replace Zach Parise.

Once you realize that Parise cannot be replaced via free agency, and certainly not via a trade unless the Devils are willing to give up quite a package, it's time to settle for a top-six forward who is "good enough."

There are a few things New Jersey fans can be irked about, the first of course being the New York Rangers basically stealing superstar forward Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets for about a third of the inital asking price.

In that trade, the Rangers did not give up Chris Kreider, nor did they give up Derek Stepan or Michael Del Zottto, three players the Blue Jackets initially asked for in one variation of a trade or another at the deadline. 

It's time to accept the fact that that ugly divorce was a huge Rangers win.

Another thing to be irked about is Petr Sykora not being signed. A good scoring winger who had a renaissance season and got paid next to nothing should be a no-brainer. However, as fans we just do not know if Sykora is asking for too many years, or a dollar amount that just does not work into the Devils' finances. I'm sure we all wish the former Devils first-round pick a healthy return to New Jersey after being incredibly good last season.

Andrei Kostitsyn is probably the best top-six winger available, but even the enigmatic Alexander Semin was signed before Kostitsyn. 

My biggest problem with the Devils' unwillingness to add a top-six forward is the eventual breakup of the fourth line that was one of the biggest reasons Jersey was able to make the Cup Final last season. 

As the roster stands right now, the skilled talent will be able to fill the top two lines, which means players like Adam Henrique, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson are almost guaranteed top-six minutes. After that, it's a stretch. The Devils might be forced into giving young Swede Mattias Tedenby more responsibility and minutes than he's ready for. 

On the third line, there's Jacob Josefson.

No, that's it, I'm done.

If the Devils are serious about keeping the fourth line together, then that means Josefson is going to play with enforcers Krys Barch and Cam Janssen, a line that would be lucky to score 10 goals in 82 games. 

The fear is that Steve Bernier is a player with enough skill to move up to the third line right-wing position, thus leaving his old fourth-line spot up for Janssen. But even at that point there's nobody to play on the left wing.

The situation is pretty bad, and I have confidence in management that they'll address the issue properly, but as of right now, the forward depth of this team is not looking good at all.

With the Rangers vastly improving their roster, and the Penguins getting a possible full season out of Sidney Crosby and company, they will look to feast on the Devils, who already have a bull's-eye on their head after embarrassing the Atlantic Division in last season's playoffs.