NHL Lockout 2012: The Current Status of New Jersey Devils' Players

Joseph Kuchie@@jkuchieCorrespondent ISeptember 22, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13: Facing an imending NHL lockout, players attend the press conference following NHLPA meetings at Marriott Marquis Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

We are now well into the NHL lockout, and many of the league's top stars have begun to find employment elsewhere.

As for the New Jersey Devils, the defending Eastern Conference Champions have put the NHL's waiver agreement to good use, sending 24 players to their AHL affiliate in Albany. Other star veterans like Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur will likely head overseas to Europe as negotiations continue.

Here is a rundown of where the current Devils' roster has ended up since last week:

AHL: Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson, Adam Larsson, Mattias Tedenby, Bobby Butler

Due to the waiver rule agreed upon by the NHL and NHLPA during negotiations, the Devils were able to send a majority of their young talent to Albany to play as a team. Allowing Butler and Tedenby to get familiar with returning players like Henrique and Josefson should benefit the team's offense once a new CBA is reached.

The move to Albany will also benefit Adam Larsson, who will gain from the experience playing with future NHL talent and current teammates. Larsson missed most of the 2012 NHL playoffs in favor of veterans, and his time in the AHL will likely improve his game in the United States.

Other notable Albany Devils are Tim Sestito, Jay Leach, Alexander Urbom, Steve Zalewski, and goaltending prospects Scott Wedgewood, Jeff Frazee, and Keith Kinkaid. Some of these players saw time at the NHL level last year, and could see time in the pros this year if someone goes down with injury.

KHL: Ilya Kovalchuk, Anton Volchenkov

According to The Record, last year's point leader Ilya Kovalchuk has agreed to a deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League. Kovalchuk will begin playing for his Russian team on September 23rd, but has an opt-out clause to rejoin the Devils whenever the NHL starts up again.

It was no surprise that Kovalchuk would take a deal in Russia considering the KHL strongly pursued him in free agency, and it will be good for the star winger to get playing time after back surgery. Kovalchuk will also get a warmup as captain now that KHA has given him the "C" for his short stint in Europe.

Tom Gulitti also reported that D Anton Volchenkov is considering KHL options as well. Volchenkov is the Devils' hardest hitting defenseman and is midway through a six-year deal with New Jersey.

Martin Brodeur

After signing a two-year contract to stay in New Jersey, Martin Brodeur is about to face the fourth work stoppage of his career.  

"It's unbelievable. It's kind of an unfortunate thing, especially at this time in my career," Brodeur told The Record. "I thought I was home free after the last one, but I guess I'm stuck in it a bit more."

Brodeur is not expected to sign with anyone over the next few weeks, but if the lockout lasts past November, he was quoted as saying he would search for a job in Europe. There are a number of teams over seas that would love to bring in Brodeur for the short term, but for now it seems like he is not in a hurry to search.

Veteran Question Marks

While minimum contract players like Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier, and Ryan Carter are stuck between the AHL and KHL, veteran players like Patrik Elias are still pondering where they will end up this year.

Elias has the skill to earn a contract somewhere in Europe, but he contracted Hepatitis A during the 2004-05 lockout and almost cost himself his career. While it is unlikely that the veteran winger will get sick again if he returns to the Czech Republic, it would perhaps be safer for him to stay in the United States and wait the work stoppage out.

The Devils should also worry about players like Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky, Dainius Zubrus, and Henrik Tallinder, veterans all over the age of 34 who can't afford to miss an entire season without playing time. Not only will this cost them a valuable year of playing time, but the contracts of Zidlicky and Zubrus will expire in 2013.

Veterans like Salvador and Hedberg have taken advantage of the Devils' practice rink, renting the Amerihealth Pavilion to continue their workouts throughout the offseason.

As the lockout goes on, we will be sure to see other players taking deals to play elsewhere until the NHL's two sides can reach an agreement. For now, it looks like a majority of the Devils will begin hockey season somewhere other than the Prudential Center.