The ashes of a failed 2013 remain scattered, uncollected. The New Jersey Devils failed to qualify for the playoffs for just the second time since 1996. Radical fans declare Lou Lamoriello is slipping. They scream that the Kovalchuk contract was a mistake. They wish in vain that Zach Parise had re-signed.
When the dust settles from a disastrous 10-game losing streak and a failed season, even the angriest of fans will kindle at least some hope for next year. The general manager, we know, will be as level-headed and practical as he always has been. This lost season requires altering the roster; filling gaps, tinkering here and there and letting players go in a cold, businesslike manner.
The New Jersey Devils are probably not going to be the 2012 Minnesota Wild of the upcoming summer's free-agency soiree. This year's pool is a tad shallow, and a salary cap that lowers to $64 million next season will have a major influence on the courtship proceedings.
But they must improve the roster, especially considering the fact that Marek Zidlicky, Patrik Elias and David Clarkson, three core members of the team, are unrestricted free agents.
It seems like everybody on the roster disappointed in some way or another, but here are four realistic changes that can be made.