To any die hard Devils fan, the picture of Eric Staal celebrating above, is enough to make you cringe. In a game that won't soon be forgotten, the Devils blew not only a one-goal lead in the final minutes of the third period of Game 7, but they also followed it up by giving up the series winning goal to Staal, and brought their season to an incredible and demoralizing halt.
The question is, where do the Devils go from here? The Devils have a number of free agents, and serious questions will have to be addressed about who will return, and who will not.
Should GM Lou Lamoriello break up the core of this team, or should he tweak it? Let's take a look at the 25 players on the roster for the Devils that fateful night, and take a stab at what was during the year that has passed us by, and what we might expect for 2009-10.
Martin Brodeur (31 GP, 19-9-3, 2.41 GAA, .916 save %, 5 shutouts in reg season, playoffs, 7 GP, 3-4-0 record, 2.39 GAA, .929 save %, 1 shutout); 2009-10 salary cap: $5.2 million, age 37 (as of October 2009)
Since 1994, the Devils have had Brodeur as their rock in net. This year, Brodeur suffered his first major injury, with the torn bicep and missed 50 games. The team was looking forward to Brodeur having his first playoff where there was no question he wasn't overworked. While Brodeur played one of the best playoff games he's ever played in his storied career in Game Five, Brodeur got outplayed by Carolina's Cam Ward.
All that being said, Brodeur is still good enough to continue to the be the backbone of this team, and anyone who thinks Brodeur is going anywhere is kidding themselves. It did seem odd that to an extent, the team as a whole did not seem to play as desperate with Brodeur in the net, as they did when Clemmensen was between the pipes.
I am not sure if that is a reflection on Brodeur as much as it is a reflection on the team as a whole.
2008-09 grade: B- 2009-2010: Definite Keeper
Scott Clemmensen (40 GP, 25-13-1, 2.39 GAA, .917 save %, 2 shutouts); 2009-10 salary cap: UFA, age 32
Clemmensen gave the Devils more then anyone could've expected in the absence of Brodeur, and more then quadrupled his career win total from 8 to 33. Clemmensen never seemed to make people comfortable, but he definitely was able to hold the fort, and do a very good job considering.
However, Clemmensenwill understandably seek out a job in the off season that will give him a chance as the starter. That opportunity does not seem to exist in New Jersey, not while Mr Brodeur is healthy.
I think GM Lou Lamoriello will thank Clemmensen for his efforts, and wish him well wherever he ends up. If for some reason, Clemmensen does not receive a good offer from another team, Lamoriello would likely welcome him back to be the backup, but it would have to be for a relatively small contract. I expect Clemmensen to get a better offer elsewhere.
2008-09 grade: A 2009-2010: Let him find a new team
Kevin Weekes (16 GP, 7-5-0, 2.42 GAA, .920 save %, 0 shutouts); 2009-10 salary cap: UFA, age 34
Weekes appears to be a great teammate and the perfect type of candidate to be the backup for Martin Brodeur. The biggest concern may be whether or not the Devils feel comfortable that Weekes would be able to shoulder more of the load then the previous two years.
The real question GM Lou Lamoriello needs to ask is would he feel comfortable with Weekes starting about 20 games next season. If the answer is no, then Lamoriello needs to find a different alternative for his backup goaltender. My gut feeling is that Weekes should be able to start 15-20 games without a problem next season.
The decision on Weekes will also likely be impacted on the long term projection of current prospect Jeff Frazee, who was an All-Star at Lowell this past season. If they have high hopes that Frazee could develop into a potential No. 1 goalie, there'd be no reason to use Frazee at the NHL level. If not, then they could use Frazee as the backup for Brodeur, similar to the likes of Mike Dunham and Scott Clemmensen in years past.