Biggest Ups and Downs of New Jersey Devils' 2013 Offseason
It's been a very eventful offseason for the New Jersey Devils.
Whether it was losing Ilya Kovalchuk, trading for Cory Schneider while hosting the NHL draft, or the arrival of new owner Josh Harris, the Devils stole most hockey headlines during the summer of 2013.
There will be plenty of new faces in New Jersey in 2013-14. Despite losing two key players in Kovalchuk and David Clarkson, the Devils have added key depth players who could keep the team in contention.
Let's take a look at the biggest ups and downs of the 2013 offseason.
Down: Losing Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson
Both Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson left the Devils for big contracts this past July, taking with them a combined 93 goals dating back to the 2011-12 season.
Kovalchuk left the remaining 12 years and $77 million on his contract to sign a four-year, $60 million deal in the KHL. Clarkson signed a seven-year, $36.75 million deal to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Losing Kovalchuk to Russia hurts the Devils in every aspect of the game. While Clarkson wasn't exactly a consistent 30-goal scorer, he was still a fan favorite who will be missed in New Jersey.
The team's power play may suffer most from the loss of Kovalchuk and Clarkson. The power play relied heavily on the two goal scorers over the past two seasons. Since the team's Cup run in 2011-12, Kovalchuk and Clarkson have accounted for 26 of the Devils' 73 power-play goals, roughly 35 percent.
However, the team did add some quality names to replace them.
Up: Signing Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder
Despite the losses of Kovalchuk and Clarkson, the Devils and GM Lou Lamoriello continued to reel in big names to help fill voids in the lineup.
Clarkson's departure led to the signing of Michael Ryder and Ryane Clowe, while the hole left by Kovalchuk is expected to be primarily filled by Jaromir Jagr.
Jagr and Ryder may not bring the explosiveness and skill that Kovalchuk brought to the team, but they are still capable of scoring goals and helping the Devils return to the playoffs. Dating back to 2011-12, Jagr and Ryder have scored a combined 86 goals, including Ryder's 35 two seasons ago.
Jagr is coming off a trip to the Stanley Cup Final with the Boston Bruins and is expected to perform well playing with fellow Czech Patrik Elias. The Devils are going to need a goal-scoring-by-committee approach to replace the goals that Kovalchuk provided, and I believe Ryder and Jagr can do that.
As for Clowe, he is a spitting image of David Clarkson in terms of production with more upside in consistency.
In 435 career NHL games, Clowe has recorded 279 points and an average of 39.75 points per season. In 426 career NHL games, Clarkson has recorded 170 points and an average of 24.28 points per season.
The Maple Leafs gave Clarkson $36 million over seven years, while the Devils gave Clowe $24 million over four.
Yes, Clowe's three concussions last season are a huge concern, but outside of 2013, Clowe had appeared in at least 70 games four straight seasons. If he can stay healthy this season and provide his usual average of 39 points, the Devils won't miss Clarkson too much.
Down: Losing Assistant Coach Matt Shaw
Assistant coach Matt Shaw may not have made an impact in his only season with the Devils, but he will be missed nonetheless.
Shaw joined the Devils before the lockout after Adam Oates left to become the head coach of the Washington Capitals. After coaching a power-play unit that ranked just 21st in the NHL, Shaw accepted a job as the head coach and GM of the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints.
There were high expectations for Shaw when he left San Jose to replace Oates as head of the power-play unit. Oates was never a favorite amongst Devil fans in his tenure with the team, and Shaw helped the Sharks become a top-five power-play unit from 2009 to 2011.
Shaw never really got a fair shot at taking over the unit due to the lockout. The Devils had a shortened training camp and no preseason to learn the new system. However, despite the lack of time, players like David Clarkson still seemed to thrive early on (Clarkson had five power-play goals in his first 12 games).
His departure led to the hiring of Mike Foligno, who will be the team's third power-play coach in three seasons. While Foligno has a great track record, it certainly is no easy feat to introduce three systems in three years.
The Devils have already lost two key components to their power play, and attempting to introduce a new system again may be problematic.
Up: Acquiring Cory Schneider
For years, Devils fans have wondered what the future would hold when Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur decided to hang up his skates. The trade for Schneider not only solidifies the team's future but could potentially help win games in 2013-14.
The Devils bought out the contract of Johan Hedberg once the trade was finalized, making Schneider the full-time backup to Brodeur for this upcoming season. I put out a story predicting when we'll see Schneider in action this year, but just expect it to be a lot.
The hype around this guy is unreal. He has a career record of 55-26-8 with a 2.20 goals-against average since 2008 and had a ridiculous 1.96 GAA in 29 games back in 2011-12.
Former teammates and analysts had nothing but good things to say about Schneider once the trade was made as well. You can check out some of those tweets here.
The Devils struggled to win games without Martin Brodeur in the lineup last season, but replacing Hedberg with Schneider will undoubtedly change the way the team's 2013-14 campaign unfolds.
Overall, Schneider is the real deal. Now the Devils have some comfort in their future once Brodeur decides to retire. Schneider will require a new contract soon, but for now the Devils can focus on this season with two high-quality goaltenders in net.
Up: New Ownership
The Devils' latest headline could be the most important.
The organization introduced Josh Harris and David Blitzer as its new owners on Aug. 15, beginning a new era of Devils hockey in the state of New Jersey.
Harris and Blitzer purchased the team from Jeff Vanderbeek for $320 million, but most importantly they absorbed all the Devils' debt. It will give the organization an opportunity to start fresh and build on their state-of-the-art arena and rising attendance numbers.
Money has been this team's Achilles' heel for years, and hopefully the team's new direction will allow business to thrive. There will be no more rumors of the team moving to Quebec City or Seattle, and the extra finance could prevent stars from taking more money elsewhere.
Transition periods can be hard, but Harris and Blitzer made it clear at their press conference that they mean business. Sponsorship deals are eventually going to grow, and the city of Newark will continue to thrive just as it did under Vanderbeek.
The new ownership duo also confirmed that Lou Lamoriello would be staying in New Jersey, putting to bed all rumors that they may go in a new direction.
The word to use here is secure. Yes, the next few years may be difficult and different, but the team is staying put and is financially stable for the first time in a decade.
They may have lost Kovalchuk and Clarkson, but this offseason has to be considered somewhat successful.