Brian Gionta and John Madden have been integral parts of the New Jersey Devils throughout their careers. Madden has given up his body to shut down the top offensive units of his opponents. Brian Gionta's small stature never stopped him from standing up against the biggest and, as a result, he dished out many goals en route to setting the franchise record of 48 in a single season. Both have been rewarded with Stanley Cups.
While remembering the contributions that they made in the past, as well as those of the other departures, it is time to look forward at the future of the team.
Lou Lamoriello's choice to do seemingly nothing on Jul. 1 could prove to be beneficial to New Jersey's future.
Since the lockout, the Devils abundance of veteran players, particularly forwards, has not provided many opportunities for prospects to make the roster as full time players.
Parise, Zajac, and Clarkson are the only three to completely make it to the NHL. There have been stints for players such as Vrana, Bergfors, Pelley, and, most recently, Leblond. There has been little room, though, for these young players to take over as forces in the NHL.
The voids that Gionta and Madden leave are spaces for prospects to thrive in. For all we know, Rod Pelley could be an even better John Madden and Bergfors will break Gionta's record of 48 goals in a season. With Rupp's departure, Leblond can take over and be even more of a presence than Rupp has been. Who knows—maybe he even has a Stanley Cup winning goal in him.
With the salary cap predicted to go down by a significant amount for the 2010-2011 season, the lower pay roll will save the Devils from having the cap problems that they had in 2005-2006. It can also allow for a trade deadline move should the Devils be buyers, which they fully have the potential to be despite some player departures.
The core of the Devils remains in tact. The Parise-Zajac-Langenbrunner line will be vital to the Devils' success again. Elias is still an integral part and his creativity allows him the ability to play with almost anyone.
Expect Rolston to start fresh and have a better season than he did last year.
There will be some questions in Ilkka Pikkareinen and other prospects that will be placed into the lineup, but most have had several years of practice in the minors and will be ready to prove themselves in the big league. The young legs could add extra spark to the team.
Oduya and Martin headline the defense corps that will remain the same as it was last year. The defense was responsible for one of the lowest goals against in the league and, with another year of experience, one can only hope they get better.
While Lou Lamoriello has yet to name a coach or sign any players from outside of the organization, the 2009 free agent day has the potential to prove as a very successful one in years to come. Some key players from the Devils' past may have been subtracted, but it may pave the way for some great players of the Devils' future to be added.