Questions Are Getting Answered for the New Jersey Devils, but Many Still Remain
With free agency having started, a lot of questions have been answered in terms of what the New Jersey Devils are doing to get ready for the 2009-10 season.
Most of their own free agents have departed, and then there's the question of how the Devils will look to replace them, whether or not it comes from inside or outside of the organization.
What have the Devils done, and what might the Devils do? Here's a look at one man's analysis and guess.
(Author's Note: This is my first attempt at the slideshow, hopefully it comes out pretty good)
Will the Devils re-sign Johnny Oduya?
Johnny Oduya made $600,000 last year. The man is due for a nice raise, and I don't think anyone would dispute that.
The question is, how high does general manager Lou Lamoreillo need to go to keep Oduya in black and red?
Oduya has re-signed with the Devils on a three year contract valued at $10.5 million.
That sounds right to me, and I also think Oduya was loyal to the Devils signing before free agency opened. After all, if the Devils didn't sign Oduya out of the Swedish League, he might still be there, and not in the NHL.
Will the Devils sign Andy Greene?
Andy Greene was re-signed to a two-year deal at $750,000 for 2009-10 and $775,000 for 2010-11.
I've always like Andy and look forward to some more development as he is given additional responsibilities on the backline.
He will have to earn the right to stay in the top 6 on a regular basis, however, which is something he has struggled with in the past, whether it was due to interest or just too many defensemen available.
What kind of contract will Travis Zajac get?
The Devils simply cannot afford to lose Travis Zajac, a soon-to-be restricted free agent, who fills the No. 1 center spot for the Devils.
The question is: How much money will it take to keep Zajac happy, and yet still allow the Devils to sign other pieces tot he puzzle?
Zajac scored 20 goals and added 42 assists last year, as he centered the No. 1 line with Zach Parise on his left and Jamie Langenbrunner on his right.
He received the qualifying offer and is unlikely to receive an offer sheet from another team, but I can't see the Devils not matching any deal that Zajac might be offered.
My guess would be that Zajac will receive a deal in the range of thre years and $10.5 million.
Will the Devils re-sign Brian Gionta?
Brian Gionta made $4 million last year.
In this salary cap era, did the Devils want to re-sign him?
I think there was mutual interest in having Gionta continue his career in New Jersey, but the question might be affordability.
And when the Montreal Canadiens offered Brian five years and $25 million, there wasn't much else to wonder.
I wish Brian well in Montreal.
Will John Madden be re-signed?
Emphatically, this was answered as a big no.
John signed a one-year deal worth $2.75 million with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Madden was a vital member of the Devils since his 1999-2000 rookie season, and from a fan point of view, he will be greatly missed.
But it seemes like Father Time might be catching up to the Mad Dog, and a change of scenery might serve both sides best.
Time for Rod Pelley to step up and take Madden's place. Similar to Madden, Pelley was signed out of the NCAA's Big Ten conference as an undrafted free agent (Madden was Michigan, Pelley Ohio State).
Will Mike Rupp be re-signed?
Another emphatic no.
I think the handwriting was on the wall when PL3 was signed to a three-year deal. I'm not sure I agree that PL3 is a good enough replacement overall as Mike Rupp, but that remains to be seen.
To be fair, Rupp would have had a very difficult time matching his signature moment with the Devils, when he scored the Cup-winning goal in Game 7 of the 2003 Stanely Cup Finals.
I will miss Mike Rupp, I enjoyed watching him play, and do not look forward to having him face the Devils. Other then that, I wish him well in Pittsburgh.
Rupp signed a two-year deal with the Penguins, and will likely be look to add some toughness to the Penguins forwards.
Where will Scott Clemmensen end up?
To be fair, sometimes you have to let the guy who's been servicable to your organization go out and get a job somewhere else.
That was the case with Scott Clemmensen, who bailed the Devils out greatly this past season after the 50-game absence of starting goalie Martin Brodeur to injury.
Clemmensen deserved the opportunity to get more playing time, and get himself a nice guaranteed contract for more then one year.
After never having more then a one-year deal, he received a three-year, $3.6 million deal from the Florida Panthers.
Best of luck to Scott in Florida, and thanks for the hard work this past year and bailing the Devils out when they needed it most.
What have the Devils done?
Thus far, not all that much to be honest.
They did sign Ilka Pikkarenen, who was the Devils' seventh round pick in 2002. He spent the last three seasons in Finland, where the 6'2" 220-pound right wing scored 49 goals in 144 games. Previously, he spent time with the Devils previous AHL affiliate, the Albany River Rats.
The Bergen Record's Tom Gulitti quoted Lou Lamoriello as saying “Ilkka Pikkarainen is a forward who brings size, strength, scoring, and toughness to our roster, We welcome him back to our hockey club."
Previously, the Devils had traded the rights to Tony Romano, their sixth round pick in the 2006 draft to the New York Islanders for center Ben Walter. Walter, 25, is a 6'1" 195 lb center who scored 20 goals and added 30 assists for the AHL's Bridgeport team. He has played in 22 NHL games with one assist and four assists with the Bruins and Islanders.
What might the Devils do?
There certainly are a decent number of players that still remain available. Now is not time to hit the panic button, even if it appears other teams have improved themselves by signing free agents.
Division rivals like the Rangers have picked up Martin Gaborik, the Penguins have acquired Mike Rupp, the Flyers have traded for Chris Pronger and added Ian Laperriere, and the Islanders have added Dwayne Rolson. Whether or not the price paid for these players will end up being a good deal does remain to be seen.
The Devils still would like to ideally fill the No. 2 center slot, sign an additional foward, and possibly add a defenseman as well as a backup goaltender,
Some possible candidates for the center position include Saku Koivu, Robert Lang, Jason Williams, Dominic Moore, Mike Comrie and Mats Sundin. I would think the best option for money and player would be Lang, who possibly could be had on the cheap, coming off a significant injury.
At defense, a player like Francois Beachuamin is tempting, but rumor has it he is looking for a 4-5 year deal at 4.5 million per. That might be a bit pricey.
At backup goaltender, I would expect the Devils to either re-sign Kevin Weekes, or give youngster Jeff Frazee a chance as the backup. Ideally, I'd prefer Frazee stayed at Lowell where he can play every day and continue to develop.
I also would expect the Devils to re-sign Brendan Shanahan to a deal that would be close to or slightly above the one-year $800,000 contract he signed last year.
It is quite clear with all of the departures, GM Lou Lamoriello is setting himself up for criticism. However, I believe Lamoriello is counting on the likes of youngsters like Nicklas Bergfors, Matt Halischuk, Rod Pelley and Matt Corrente to step up and fill gaps created by veteran departures. Until the entire offseason has played out, it is way too early to criticize.
However, if the plan does not live up to par, and the Devils struggle, then Lamoriello should receive a ton of criticism. Being it is only July 2, I think it is very premature to criticze.
But, if the Devils are struggling greatly come December, there should be a lot of criticism, and it should be pointed at the man who made the decision to allow guys like Brian Gionta and John Madden to leave via free agency.
That man is newest Hall of Famer in the "builders" category, and his name is Lou Lamoriello. That's how a general manager earns his money, by making the tough decisions, and hopefully making them correctly more often then not.