I will be previewing all 30 NHL clubs. I will be looking at their available salary cap room, the additions and deletions from the 2008-09 rosters, and where I think they will stack up in their division and conference for the 2009-10 campaign.
Let's get a move on with the New Jersey Devils, which play in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference.
This season will have two major headlines in Newark, New Jersey.
1) Everything old is new again.
2) How do the Devils recover from major losses.
Last season, Devils’ General Manager Lou Lamoriello looked to the past when he signed several free agents. Brendan Shanahan, Brian Rolston, Michael Rupp, Scott Clemmensen, and Bobby Holik were returned the Devils for their second stints with the franchise.
Then on June 9th, Lamoriello allowed head coach Brent Sutter to walk away from the final year of his contract. Sutter stated that family concerns and personal reasons were both keys in his decision to leave the Devils but three days later he was signed as the new head coach in Calgary, joining his brothers Darryl, Duane, and Ron with the Flames organization.
Sutter, who is from Viking, Alberta, still has ties to the area as the owner of the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels. With the departure of Sutter, Lamoriello turned to the coach that helped lead the Devils to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 1995, Jacques Lemaire.
Lemaire, the first and only head coach of the Minnesota Wild, resigned at the end of the season. In June, Lemaire was asked to join Team Canada’s coaching staff for the 2010 Winter Olympics as an assistant coach. On July 13, Lamoriello named his old friend, Lemaire the new head coach of the New Jersey Devils.
Now the major losses. The Devils lost All-Star goaltender Martin Brodeur for four months after he torn a biceps tendon. Most experts wrote off the Devils at that point but they continued on and won the Atlantic division for the third time since the lockout.
The Devils entered the playoff against the Carolina Hurricanes and seemed to have the series well under control but a pair of last minutes losses, including giving up two goals in the final 1:20 that erased a 3-2 lead in game seven and saw the elimination of the Devils from the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals.
Madden was the team’s shut down center and had been a fixture in Jersey since the 1998-99 season. Gionta was the team’s top line right winger for many years. He moved on to Montreal to reform two thirds of the EGG line (with Scott Gomez) that helped lead the Devils to the 2003 Stanley Cup championship.
How the team responds to the losses of key personal and the collapse in game seven will go a long way to determine their success, this season. Let’s take a look at the 2009-10 edition of the New Jersey Devils;
The unrestricted free agents that have moved on from New Jersey are: Scott Clemmensen (Florida), Jon DiSalvatore (Minnesota), Brian Gionta (Montreal), Niclas Havelid (Sweden), John Madden (Chicago), Mike Rupp (Pittsburgh) and Barry Tallackson (St. Louis)
There are seven former Devils players that have yet to sign deals with another franchise. They are: Stephen Gionta, Olli Malmivaara, Ryan Murphy, Matthew Spiller, Petr Vrana, Kevin Weekes and Chad Wiseman.
2009–10 New Jersey Devils roster.
The Devils currently have 20 players under one-way contracts; 12 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goaltenders. The three players that are most likely to fill out the roster, that are on two-way contracts are Cory Murphy, Rob Davison, and Nicklas Bergfors.
Murphy has spent the last two seasons in the NHL after playing six seasons in Europe. The 31-year-old defenseman has played 79 games, scoring seven goals and adding 26 assists with both the Panthers and the Lightning.
Davison is entering his seventh season in the NHL. The 29-year-old defenseman has played 218 games, scoring three goals and tallying 15 assists with the Sharks, Islanders and Canucks. Davison signed a two-year contract that becomes a one-way contract next season.
With these 22 players the Devils’ Salary Cap would sit at $51.6 million.
The third player to make the roster will be a forward. The most likely candidate is Bergfors. The 22-year-old right winger is entering his fifth professional season, splitting time between the AHL and the Devils. Bergfors has played nine NHL games, scoring his first goal last season against the Atlanta Thrashers on November 1, 2008.
Here is a look at some of the Devils’ top prospects that will be looking to impress Lamoriello and Lemaire.
The Devils’ first round pick (24th Overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft is a Swedish born left winger that has not signed his first entry level contract. Tedenby will most likely spend the season playing for HV-71 in the Swedish Elite League.
According to Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb, “Mattias is excellent on every shift. He has outstanding speed, stick work and work ethic. He is small but fearless—he takes hits and always comes back. He looks like a young Saku Koivu; he creates scoring chances with his outstanding skating and is very difficult to stop when he is at full speed. He has excellent balance and quick, smooth hands, but needs to improve on his defensive awareness.”
If Tedenby can develop has the Devils’ hope, he will be patrolling the left side on the top line in the not too distant future.
The Devils’ first round pick (20th Overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft is a Swedish born center will most like spend the season playing for Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League. Josefson has not signed his first entry level contract.
According to Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb, “He is a very good two-way player. He has a very good responsibility for his defensive duties. He's more a playmaker, a guy who sees the ice really well, creates a lot of scoring chances with his passing skills. He's very good with the stick and very good in traffic because he is an excellent stick handler. He's a smooth passer with very soft hands."
The Devils’ first round pick (23rd Overall) in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft is a Swedish born right winger has been playing professional hockey in North America for the last four seasons. He will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season, so this may be Bergfors last chance to stay with the Devils on a full time basis.
The Devils’ first round pick (30th Overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft is a Mississauga native that is entering his second professional season. The 21-yead-old defenseman spent last season in Lowell of the AHL.
According to hockeysfuture.com: "With Corrente’s aggressive, pit-bull style mentality, superior mobility and offensive upside, it is obvious that the Devils did their homework on the 6'0", 200 lb. defender. Corrente does not let his small stature get in the way his style of play. He loves to initiate contact and play physically. Corrente makes opponents think twice about crossing the blueline and when he hits, he hits hard and always finishes his checks.
"Offensively, Corrente is only going to get better with more experience. He is a fantastic skater, with above average top end speed. He has a rocket of a point shot (he registered the hardest shot at the CHL Top Prospects skills competition), but he must work on improving his shot accuracy. His passes are crisp and usually on target.
"Corrente is competent and works hard in the defensive zone, but does tend to run around some. That is something that is likely to improve with experience. His quickness and mobility allow him to stick with his man and follow them all over the ice. Despite being undersized, Corrente is able to handle bigger forwards along the walls and in front of the net due to his tenacity and surprising strength.
"If there is one significant weakness in Corrente's game, it is his tendency to play too aggressive and take needless penalties. As is the case with other aspects of his game that is still raw, this is an area that will likely improve with experience and maturity."
With the depth on the Devils’ blue line for the up-coming season, he will be in a battle with Murphy and Davison for the final roster spot coming out of training camp.
The Devils’ second round pick (54th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft is a native of Moncton, NB. The 19-year-old center has spent the last three seasons with the Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL.
According to NHL Central Scouting's Chris Bordeleau, "Patrice is at his best when he is using his speed and playing an aggressive game. He is a hard worker and is hard to knock off of the puck - at this point in his development, projects to be a third line-type checker. Is the type of player who likes to play in traffic and likes to drive to the net."
Cormier is most likely heading back to the QMJHL for the up-coming season. He does not turn 20 until June so he is eligible to return his junior team.
Recap of 2008-09
The Devils finished first in the Atlantic Division and finished third in the Eastern Conference with a record of 51-27-4, good for 106 points. The Devils were forced to play without future Hall-of-Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur, who missed 50 games with a bicep injury. The club did not crumble and totally surpassed expectations with Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen shouldering the load.
The Devils had five players break the 20-goal plateau and eight players finished with double digit goals. They were lead by Zach Parise (45 goals and 94 points), who finished fifth in league scoring and Patrik Elias (31 goals).
The Devils offense was 15th in the NHL with 238 goals for but defensively, the Devils were fourth in the NHL giving up 207 goals.
The Devils powerplay was 15th in the NHL last season, clicking at only 18.9 percent but they were 20th in killing penalties (79.9 percent).
Outlook for 2009-10
I foresee a third place finish in the highly competitive Atlantic Division but I think they will finish fifth in the Conference. The Devils played a high tempo, cycle game last season under Brent Sutter but will be returning to neutral zone trap that made the franchise successful during the late 90’s and early part of this decade.
The Devils are getting older with their top goalie, Brodeur, now being 37-years old. Can he continue to dominate the crease as he has in the past? Without a substantial NHL quality back-up in Yann Denis, if Brodeur suffers another injury this season, the Devils may be in a whole heap of trouble. Playing in the same division as the Stanley Cup champions, the Broadway Blue Shirts and the Broad Street Bullies will be exciting for NHL fans this season. All four teams should make the playoffs and it will be a dog fight for the Atlantic Division crown.
On Sept 4th, I will be reviewing New York Islanders as I continue to preview each of the 30 NHL clubs. Look for my four-part article on how I would improve the NHL and my other previously published articles on bleacherreport.com.
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