Last summer, the Devils experienced their worst off-season in franchise history. They lost their top play-making center Scott Gomez, to division rival New York Rangers and they lost their top defenseman Brian Rafalski to Detroit. In addition to all of this, they let the top two free agents, Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, go to division rivals. It was not a good time to be a Devils fan.
Well this year, the Devils have made it clear that they do not intend to make the same mistake twice. As the calender rolled into July, the Devils entered into a frenzy of free agent action, along with the rest of the league.
For starters, they took care of in house business first, re-signing Jay Pandolfo, easily the game's best checking forward, to a three year at $2.5 million per season deal. They also inked Bryce Salvador, David Clarkson, and Barry Tallackson to new deals. This secured an experienced blue-liner, and two young forwards who will hopefully be scoring goals for years to come.
Unfortunately, the Devils decided to part ways with Sergei Brylin. In order to free up cap space for Pandolfo's new deal, they were forced to decline Brylin's option for 2008-2009. Brylin was a consummate Devil, always willing to step into any role asked of him, sign an autograph, or pose for a picture with a fan. He will be missed, especially by this particular fan.
However, on a positive note the Devils brought back Brian Rolston. Rolston, who was with the Devils until the 1999-00 season, scored 178 points over 348 games before being traded to Colorado mid-season. Rolston will bring a scorer's touch to a power play that was often lifeless and a veteran presence to the locker room.
In addition, Bobby Holik was inked to a one year deal. Holik is best known for his role on the "Crash Line" of the late 90s. Holik is a gritty, hard-nosed player who will improve an already capable penalty kill.
Last summer, I sat by and watched as the team I loved was knocked down a few pegs in the league standings. This year however, I am looking forward to seeing more goals from the Devils, and the typical strong defense that the franchise is known for. Combine these things with the inimitable goal-tending of Martin Brodeur...I see good things at The Rock this season.