After losing the Zach Parise sweepstakes, Devils fans entered a hole of depression. Zach Parise is a superstar and now he’s gone. I previously went out on a limb and predicted that the Devils would pursue Bobby Ryan or Andrei Kostitsyn (AK46), but no such luck yet.
Then, news came around on Thursday that Lou Lamoriello signed Bobby Butler, formerly of the Ottawa Senators. Young yet injury-prone, Butler’s contract was bought out earlier this offseason,
This would be nice, seeing as how Butler can potentially fill the hole that Alexei Ponikarovsky made when he left New Jersey for Winnipeg. Although different players, he does have that ability to succeed on a talented third line such as New Jersey’s.
The problem actually lies in a quote made by Lou Lamoriello regarding the signing. From NHL.com: “He signed a two-way [contract], so we'll just see what develops, but he has the potential of being a top-six forward."
While Lamoriello may think that he has great potential, he is going out on a huge limb by saying he could make it to the second line. Saying that he will be a fixture on the third line is even a bit of a stretch.
And by shoving that idea down Devils’ fans throats, is Lamoriello trying to convince us that there’s suddenly no need to acquire a player to fill in Parise’s skates? Does that mean the Devils’ participation in the Bobby Ryan sweepstakes is over before it started? Do the Devils have any plans in mind to replace Zach Parise? Or are they just going to wait a few years and wait for one of the top prospects (Butler, Mattias Tedenby or even Stefan Matteau) to possibly develop into a star?
In saying that Butler could be a top-six forward, it seems as if Lou is basically saying that he is done for the offseason because all needs are filled up.
So let’s recap this offseason: In an offseason where New Jersey needed to re-sign all of its players, it let the most important one slip away: Zach Parise, a bona fide first-line winger entering his prime. To cope, they signed a fourth-line enforcer and a 25-year-old who has the potential to one day become a second-line winger.
This begs the question: Does Lamoriello realize that he botched this offseason?
I know Lou found tremendous upside in bringing Bobby Butler in, but where was he for the past month? He signed an unneeded enforcer, and that was actually it. Does he think that the thirst for a first-line winger has been quenched by Krys Barch? I sure hope not.
What about AK46? Alexander Semin? Bobby Ryan? Jiri Hudler? Brad Boyes? P.A Parenteau? Lou didn’t even throw his hat into the ring and try to sign any of these guys.
Now, the lines look very weak and unproven, with the only wingers on the roster being Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias (who is also a center), Dainius Zubrus (who is also a center), David Clarkson, Stephen Gionta (who is also a center) and Steve Bernier. Couple in Barch and Cam Janssen, and you are looking at one of the weakest groups of wingers in the entire NHL.
So now let's play line maker. Assuming that Gionta, Bernier and Ryan Carter are kept together, that leaves three lines to fill with the following forwards: Barch, Clarkson, Elias, Adam Henrique, Janssen, Jacob Josefson, Kovalchuk, Tedenby, Travis Zajac and Zubrus.
What do you think of this projected third line?
The only players worthy of a first-line spot are Kovalchuk, Elias, Henrique and Zajac, otherwise known as two left wingers and two centers.
So, let’s just say Kovalchuk and Henrique share the first line. Who will be that right wing?
Alas, let’s move onto the second line. Elias can definitely play on the second line, as can Zajac and Clarkson. So now they have a third line and can choose between Zubrus, Barch, Janssen, Josefson and Mattias Tedenby. Not to mention that one of these guys will be moved up to play first-line right wing.
If New Jersey moves Zubrus to first-line wing, it would then have a third line featuring a very one-sided Tedenby, an injury-prone Josefson and now the choice between Janssen and Barch.
So now, the Devils are throwing Zubrus up to the first line (even though he is 34 and not good enough to play there) and are stuck with either Butler, Janssen or Barch at third-line wing, which would create one of the most unproven and injury prone lines in the NHL.
So now let’s look at our progress.
If an injury hits, and they always seem to with this fragile team, the Devils could be in serious danger of missing out on the playoffs.
But that’s OK; at least Lou will have $40 million next year to pay Elias (who’ll be 37), Zajac, Henrique, Clarkson (a player who has little worth outside of DeBoer’s system), Zubrus (who’ll be 35), Josefson, Marek Zidlicky (who’ll be 36) and Peter Harrold.
When the Devils miss the playoffs for the second time in three years and there will be many questions with few answers, you can go and thank Lou Lamoriello.