Grading the New Jersey Devils' Offseason Moves
Second round of the playoffs came about, and again, the Devils were done.
This is a pretty disturbing trend, and the franchise said they realized it. Word from the team was the defense was going to be retooled in the offseason and some improvements were going to be made.
I get hockey and I get Devils hockey, and I get the kind of players the organization usually looks for. Lately, I have felt like the team is really off track and in disrepair.
So to gauge the moves the Devils have made, I am going to give them a report card for their offseason moves so far:
The draft was a chance to reload for the future, and possibly now. I was staring at Greg Nemisz, a big two-way center from the Windsor Spitfires—the Devils ended up taking two other players from Windsor in the draft, but not the one I thought they should—but the rug was pulled out from under me when the Devils went with undersized Swedish left wing Mattias Tedenby.
The scouting report on Tedenby is that he plays a lot like Brian Gionta. It makes me wonder if Gionta—entering the last year of his contract—will be around after the trade deadline next season. I really do not like this pick, but it is hard to judge how European players will do in the NHL, so I could be wrong.
The Devils got a steal by nabbing defenseman Matt Delahey at pick 112, considering he was ranked 50th by Central Scouting. Other than that, the Devils got a couple of average picks, so I think I will give them an average grade.
Total Re-signing: C+
I liked the players the Devils brought back on offense, but they did not get rid of as many players as I thought they would on the defense. To me, it looks like that retooled defense comment was just a rumor.
Jay Pandolfo: B+
I was worried when I heard rumors the Devils were going to cut Jay loose, but breathed a sign of relief when they re-signed him. Teamed up with John Madden, Pandolfo wll be a force on the penalty kill and as part of a shutdown line.
Pandolfo had 12g-12a-24pt in 54 games, which is pretty good for a third-line guy on a team with “no offense”. My only beef with this is the $2.5 million—which is a little hard to swallow.
David Clarkson: B+
I love Clarkson. In his rookie campaign he had 9g-13a-22pt, and 185 PIM. He crashes and bangs, but as he showed in the Young Stars game, he has some serious offensive upside. I hope he sees more time on the power play, so he can park that big body in front of the net and cause havoc.
He may never make it consistently above the fourth or third lines, but at $800k I consider him a good bargain.
Bryce Salvador: C+
It is hard to judge a stay-at-home defenseman by his stats—but one requirement I always have is they have to be a plus player, unless they happen to be on a minus team.
Salvador was plus-one last season as a Devil, including the playoffs, and managed just a playoff goal and no other points. For his career he is a -23, including the playoffs, and that does not do much for my confidence in his ability to shut other players down.
I suppose he did not get enough of a chance to prove his play to me or the Devils last season due to injury, and the team wanted to see more. He got a $2.9 million contract—so he better step up big because that is pretty high for a stay-at-home guy.
Mike Mottau: D+
Mottau is a former Hobey Baker winner—and that concludes the nice things I have to say about him.
He is a career AHL player, and I do not see how bringing him back is change for the defense in the right direction. Mottau is too small, and does not hit hard enough or play with enough of an edge to be a stay-at-home guy. His team-worst -11 in the regular season and -3 in the playoffs just proves he can not play the defensive game.
He averaged 20-plus minutes of ice time and still only managed 4g-13a-17pt in 76 games. I think the Devils could have found a more defensively responsible guy that would have put up more points. He is only making $750k, so I suppose it could have been worse.
This area makes me the happiest so far this offseason. The Devils brought back two proven contributors who can potentially get the Devils over that first-round hump in the playoffs. They could also potentially both be busts. Regardless, the Devils got my attention and the attention of the rest of the league with these signings:
Brian Rolston. A-
An ex-Devil coming back to the team in his mid-to-late 30s? That should surprise no one.
I really like Rolston coming back. He seems like he will do very well in the Brent Sutter system, and will probably add 30 goals and 60 points to the team playing on the first line.
Rolston could play the point on the power play and contribute that cannon of a shot he has. He apparently had a lot of teams after him, and I find it to be a bargain to come to the Devils at around $5 million a season.
The interesting part is going to see who he kicks out of the top two lines—and possibly off the team.
Bobby Holik. C+
An ex-Devil coming back to the team in his mid-to-late 30s? Déjà vu. Holik puts an emphasis on the late part of that comment, seeing as how he is 37.
I definitely see Holik as the type of player David Clarkson will be in a few years. He had 15g-19a-34pt and 90 PIM in 82 games last year. That total might go down this year as he is getting older, but 30 points and his big style of play will be welcomed.
He only averaged about 16 minutes of ice time last year with the Thrashers and I see him probably getting about the same work load on the third line with Madden and Pandolfo, or possibly getting goon duty on the fourth.
The Devils had a really bland offseason compared to what I was expecting. Hopefully, the few moves they did make will pay off next year.
However, I do not think the Devils are done making moves, because, as I stated, Brian Rolston kicked someone out of the top-six forwards, and it makes me wonder if there might be a departure.
The rumors are the Devils are shopping Vitaly Vishnevski, and may just release him completely.
The Devils could also see some prospects fight for jobs next year, like Rod Pelley, Nicklas Bergfors, Petr Vrana, Matt Halischuk, Mark Fraser, Matt Corrente, and Nick Palmieri. If these prospects can prove they are ready for the NHL—and possibly even a better alternative to a current player—the Devils could make even more moves to shuffle some people around.
I would like to leave with my thoughts on the Sergei Brylin situation. He was a great player and will be missed dearly. I give the Devils kudos for cutting emotional ties with a player to make a better team, because his $1.52 million was way too much to be paying him.
I do not think the Devils fans have seen the last of Sergei Brylin, and he could be back in a different non-player position.
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