Devils Can't Afford to Lose Jamie Langenbrunner's Vital Veteran Presence

Sean HartnettCorrespondent IOctober 1, 2010

Langenbrunner is an essential member of the Devils.
Langenbrunner is an essential member of the Devils.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Rumors have been swirling that the New Jersey Devils may jettison popular captain Jamie Langenbrunner in an attempt to clear cap space.  Since the costly re-signing of gifted winger Ilya Kovalchuk, reacquisition of Jason Arnott, and signings of defensive duo Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov, the Devils find themselves in a bind.

As the new season draws near, some creative bookkeeping is clearly needed to fit under the salary cap.  General manager Lou Lamoriello must clear in excess of $4 million before the Devils' opener against Dallas on October 8th, and Langenbrunner's name has been most routinely linked with a move away from the Garden State.

Langenbrunner is the sort of player New Jersey should try to desperately keep hold of as he is a well-respected presence both in the locker room and on the ice.  He's the sort of gritty worker who contributes much to the Devils cause that goes under the radar. Intangible qualities aren't always easy to spot, but those in the know understand Jamie's significant value.

Chemistry is another important factor in keeping Langenbrunner as Patrik Elias has spent significant time alongside his potential line-mates.  Elias of course has developed a good understanding in recent seasons with Langenbrunner, and Arnott was his centerman during New Jersey's Stanley Cup winning run of 2000.  The trio could form a dynamic line for the Devils if kept together.

Lamoriello should turn to dumping Danius Zubrus in an attempt to package the forward with draft picks or mid-level prospects, allowing New Jersey to retain Langenbrunner.  Zubrus is due $3.4 million annually over the next three seasons so he will be difficult to move.  With Bryce Salvador out indefinetly, the Devils have a bit more salary cap breathing space.  The 34-year-old possibly suffered a concussion and needs to undergo further tests, making his status unclear.  Powerful winger David Clarkson should also be considered as he is a dealable option at $2 million this season though his salary rises to $3 million for the next two.

If two of the options mentioned could be traded away or clear waivers, New Jersey should have enough space under the cap and will be able to hold on to Langenbrunner.  The Colorado Avalanche have been mentioned by multiple media outlets as suitors for the Devils captain, and there won't be a shortage of teams interested in acquiring his services.  Lamoriello may be tempted to if the right offer is made, but it is in his best interest to cling onto Langenbrunner unless all other options are exhausted.