Devils Fans, It's Time to Move On: The Upcoming N.J. Offseason

Jason KContributor IMay 1, 2009

The Devils' monumental collapse with 80 seconds left is 72 hours old. I have calmed down; the initial anger and shock have passed. It's now time to look at the important offseason upcoming.

This New Jersey club has a lot of decisions to make; obviously, they can't keep everyone, and who would want to after this season's ending?

But before I look at th summer of 2009, I first want to look back at the 2008-09 additions.

Brian Rolston

His salary was $4 million, yet he didn't produce like it. Lou overpaid for Rolston because he wanted a player who fit the Devils' system; the idea was that a former player was going to mesh seamlessly, so he received a bonus for it.

Rolston missed a substantial amount of time with a high ankle sprain, which is an injury that lingers. But recovery time accounted for, his stats (15 G, 17 A, 32 PTS) are still underachieving.

Grade: C

Bobby Holik

Holik was payed $2.5 million to come back, and that was another system bonus for a hoped seamless transition. He was not brought in for numbers (4 G, 5 A, 9 PTS), but to agitate the opponent.

Throughout the season, I believe he accomplished his main goal, but he took a lot of penalties at bad times. He finished the season a healthy scratch after Pandolfo, who came back from a healthy scratch, excelled.

Only a year contract can be fixed in this year's offseason.

Grade: D

Scott Clemmensen

Lou looks likes a genius bringing in the career minor-leaguer and Toronto castaway back to the team that drafted him. He played in Lowell until Brodeur went down with his injury.

At that point, he was supposed to backup Weekes, but he played so great that he became the starter in Brodeur's absence. Unfortunately, he had to be sent down immediately following Brodeur's return due to a complicated waiver process, but he saved the season, and the Devils excelled with him in net.

Grade: A

Brendan Shanahan

Shanahan was brought in when no one else wanted him: The Rangers couldn't afford him, so the Devils swooped in in January and signed him to a pro-rated $800,000 contract.

The move brought veteran leadership and a few goals and assists (6 G, 8 A, 14 PTS). He was overall a solid player, and performed younger than his age indicated. However, he did need a few "maintenance days" here and there.

Grade: B

Niclas Havelid

Acquired in the trade deadline deal for young Anssi Salmela, Havelid looked good on paper, but do not think it was coincidence that the Devils had a slide after his acquisition. He constantly gave up to puck in the defensive zone and was a point on the power play but showed no promise in that position.

He's an unrestricted free agent after this season.

Grade: D

The Current Offseason Situation (initial cap space of $1.686 million)

Unrestricted Free Agents

  • Brian Gionta ($4 million last season) should be re-signed for $2.5 million. He gets a reduced rate because, obviously, 48 goals was a fluke. Still scored 20 with Zubrus as his center.
  • John Madden ($3 million) should be re-signed for $2 million. He gets less because this season showed he is not the player he once was.
  • Bobby Holik ($2.5 million) should be released. He's gone, as he had too many penalties and was a healthy scratch in the Playoffs until Langenbrunner was hurt.
  • Brendan Shanahan ($800,000) should be re-signed for $1 million. If he wants to come back, I say let him for around the same price as last year. He was one of the few bright spots against the Canes. Not a lot of goals, but constant hustle.
  • Mike Rupp ($500,000) should be re-signed for $500,000. He was a solid fourth-liner, and his play this year was around where I expected.
  • Niclas Havelid ($2.7 million) should be released. He's gone, no explanation needed.
  • Johnny Oduya ($600,000) should be re-signed for $2.5 million. Obviously one of our top four defenseman, and he deserves a pay increase to make his salary comparable to that of White, Salvador, and Martin.
  • Kevin Weekes ($687,500) should be released.
  • Scott Clemmensen ($500,000) should be released. Bring up Jeff Frazee as the back-up to start grooming. Frazee is 22 and was an AHL All-Star. Brodeur only has three years left on his contract, so it's time to reduce his work load to 60 games a year and let another goalie play to get ready for the transition.
  • Barry Tallackson ($475,000) should be released. He played four games all year for the team.

Restericted Free Agents

  • Travis Zajac ($984,200) should be re-signed for  $3 million. He's obviously our top center. Not Elias or Parise, but his (20 G, 42 A, 62 PTS) are great numbers.
  • Pierre-Luc Leblond ($471,667) should be re-signed for $500,000. To replace Holik on the fourth line, get a younger and hungrier version of him. Hopefully he'll get fewer penalties as he learns.
  • Andy Greene ($600,000) should be re-signed for $750,000. He's a solid defenseman. I believe he is better than Mottau, who will become a healthy scratch after a free agent defenseman comes in.
  • Petr Vrana ($475,000) should be re-signed for $500,000. He started the season on the Devils before being sent down, and he's still young enough to give a chance to.

After adjusting for increases in current contracts, these moves should give the Devils approximately $6.9 million to spend on free agents this summer.

I believe they need a better second-line center. I would prefer one who is, at most, 29 years old. Zubrus should move to the third line, and Rolston stays on the fourth line where he finished up at season's end.

I also believe a "stay at home" defenseman is needed. Colin White has not been the same player since the eye injury.

I know Jay Bouwmeester is the top defenseman this offseason, but the Devils probably cannot afford him. He has also been rumored to be interested in a Western Conference team like Edmonton.

I look forward to comments from Devil fans. What do you think of my outline?  What would you do?


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