Biggest Takeaways from New Jersey Devils' 2013 NHL Draft
The New Jersey Devils made all the headlines this past weekend at Prudential Center during the 2013 NHL draft, trading for Vancouver Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider and drafting Martin Brodeur's son Anthony in the seventh round.
New Jersey made three trades throughout the course of the draft, allowing them to end the day with Schneider and five draft selections. The Devils selected Brodeur, three forwards and a defenseman over the course of seven rounds.
While the Schneider deal stole the show, the Devils actually wound up having a pretty successful draft in terms of prospects. Here are my three takeaways from the weekend and some future insight going into free agency.
Solidifying Post-Brodeur Era in Net
The future of goaltending in New Jersey has been a huge question mark surrounding the Devils since last season, but GM Lou Lamoriello found the long-term solution on Sunday by acquiring Cory Schneider.
In 98 career appearances, Schneider is 55-26-8 with a 2.20 GAA and nine shutouts. He is also 1-4 with a 2.59 GAA in 10 playoff games.
At age 27, Schneider can finally get out of the unstable backup role in Vancouver and learn from Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur before taking over the starting role.
Lamoriello made it clear that Brodeur will be the No. 1 goaltender going into next season, but it is very likely the two goaltenders will be splitting time evenly. Brodeur has sat out at least 19 games in each of the past three seasons and is becoming more and more reliant on his backup.
Johan Hedberg is still on the roster despite the trade, but all signs point to Moose either being bought out or traded before free agency begins on July 5. Hedberg has discussed his future with Lamoriello this week, but don't expect him to be on the roster by October.
Johan Hedberg spoke to Devils GM Lou Lamoriello today but nothing was settled regarding his future.— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) July 3, 2013
Asked if playing for Albany (AHL) was even a possibility, Hedberg said: "That is not my preference."— Rich Chere (@Ledger_NJDevils) July 3, 2013
If Hedberg doesn't want to go to the AHL, he'll likely be with a new team next season. He may be one of the better guys to be around in the locker room, but his performance last year was a red flag for a team that needs a quality backup.
It should also be noted that the Devils got a steal with this Schneider deal. Lamoriello only had to give up the No. 9 pick in this year's draft, even when the Edmonton Oilers offered the No. 7 pick, a prospect and a player to be named later.
It was just Lou being Lou, and despite not drafting a goaltender besides Anthony Brodeur, New Jersey still managed to lock up the future in net for years to come.
Potential Hard-Hitting D-Man in Santini
One thing the Devils have lacked since the end of the Scott Stevens era was an enforcer on the blue line.
New Jersey has tried to duplicate Stevens' presence on defense with the likes of Colin White and Anton Volchenkov, but neither have made the impact that the organization expected.
At 6'2, 207 pounds, Steve Santini may bring that physical force that the Devils desperately need.
Henry Lazar, the GM of the New York Apple Core, described Santini as "a dedicated, hard-working defenseman who can play the game any way he has to. He is mobile, a big hitter and extremely smart with the puck."
Santini is no offensive whiz, but the Devils have Adam Larsson to provide good puck movement and shot quality from the blue line. What they need is a smart, hard-hitting defenseman to make game-changing hits, and I believe Santini will bring that to the organization in a few years.
It's also important to note that Santini had a plus-six last season compared to his minus-28 the year before, which means his progression is improving as he continues to grow. Having him on a roster where two veteran defensemen had a combined minus-24 last season would certainly be an upgrade in the years to come.
It may take time, but we could possibly see a defensive duo similar to Stevens and Scott Niedermayer in Larsson and Santini in the future. It's a bold prediction, but I like Santini and Larsson that much.
Still Need Offense
The only downside to the Schneider deal is that New Jersey lost the No. 9 pick that they were planning to use on offense.
The Devils were not the same last season without Zach Parise, and prospects like Stefan Matteau, Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson have yet to pan out like the organization planned.
In fact, the Devils dropped from 15th with 2.63 goals per game to 28th with 2.29 goals per game last season without Parise and a slumping David Clarkson. Kovalchuk tried to carry the load offensively, but a late-season injury cost the Devils a potential playoff spot.
I wrote an article a few weeks ago arguing that the Devils should take Bo Horvat or Hunter Shinkaruk with the ninth pick, but I also wasn't opposed to trading the pick for a proven goaltender.
Horvat actually went No. 9 when Vancouver acquired the pick in the Schneider deal, and New Jersey didn't take an offensive forward until they selected Ryan Kujawinski in the third round.
They also don't have a first-round pick next year because of the Ilya Kovalchuk contract fiasco, so it will be a while before another first-round offensive threat comes to town.
According to Tom Gulitti of The Record, Lamoriello did go on record saying New Jersey would address their offensive needs in free agency, and names like Danny Briere have been thrown around as potential fixes for their offensive woes.
I think not having first-round talent in the system isn't a way to address the team's age concerns, but getting an NHL-quality goaltender like Schneider makes up for that issue. Fans will have to hope that players like Kujawinski and Miles Wood will work out in the coming years.