Every offseason in the past five years has been crucial to the New Jersey Devils. Most of them have led to seasons where the Devils fail to make the playoffs. It’s been rare that an offseason has worked in New Jersey’s favor. But that doesn’t mean the idea of getting good players can excite fans for the season well ahead. Fans can use the word optimism to describe many of those past off-seasons. We must see how optimistic the franchise has come to terms in the past five years to understand this. So here is a ranking of the past five offseasons, based on having high optimism to low optimism.
2016 Offseason- Optimism Ranking: Medium
After the 2015-2016 season, the Devils’ most significant need in that offseason was a goal scorer since they were last in scoring that year. On June 29, 2016, they dropped a bomb on the hockey world by trading for Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson. Adding Hall provided them a #1 superstar that they were currently lacking. Despite trading for Hall, the moves they made after were small. The only main free agents that the Devils decided to sign were Ben Lovejoy and Vernon Fiddler.
But both of those players we’re reaching depth level since they weren’t who they once were. Having the 12th overall pick in that year’s draft, the Devils draft Michael McLeod, a player who has been reliable on the current roster. For their other players on their roster, they gave Kyle Palmieri a five-year extension, which the Devils needed since he’s been one of the better players during that year. Probably the biggest reason this gets a medium type of optimism was that even though getting Taylor Hall was big, that’s the only thing they did. Hall could fix the scoring and get fans in the seats, but the optimism could’ve been higher had they made more other moves.
2017 Offseason- Optimism Ranking: High
When the 2017 offseason began when the Devils had the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, you know the team was instantly getting better. During that draft, the Devils took Nico Hischier as the first overall pick. The Devils had a number one pick, plus a number one superstar playing on the same team. In free agency, the moves they made were great considering their needs. Signing Brian Boyle to a contract helped add a veteran looking to play on a young team. The Devils also managed to get Marcus Johansson away from the Washington Capitals, who had a great year with 58 points and added a great center and winger. While the team looked a lot better, and the optimism was better, there indeed were still issues the Devils needed to fix, like adding another defenseman would’ve been good. But the fans were still excited about the season to come, and we’re pleased with the results.
2018 Offseason- Optimism Ranking: Medium
After going to the 2017-2018 playoffs, the next logical step would be improving and getting better players back there next year. Unfortunately, the Devils didn’t do anything too significant during the 2018 offseason to improve the team. During the draft, they managed to pick up an excellent future defenseman in Ty Smith. Aside from that, they didn’t go after anyone that could help them advance further next year. This offseason is what started Ray Shero’s downfall as a general manager. Even though they didn’t get anyone, fans we’re still most likely pleased because they hoped it would lead to more playoff years. Still, though, not getting anyone causes the optimism to be at a medium.
2019 Offseason- Optimism Ranking: High
The 2019 offseason was considered by many to be the best offseason the Devils had in recent memory. The idea of the offseason was to get acquisitions to get Taylor Hall to like playing in New Jersey. Like in 2017, it all began when the Devils won the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. They selected Jack Hughes with that first overall pick in June. Then, the next day, the Devils set the hockey world on fire by trading for P.K. Subban, the Nashville Predators at the time.
Getting Subban felt like a great move, seeing the Devils lack of defenseman on their team. But Shero wasn’t done yet in terms of getting players. Shero would get Nikita Gusev in a trade from the Vegas Golden Knights, who barely played in the NHL. During free agency, though, the Devils only got one player on the first day, which was Wayne Simmonds. Despite not doing much in free agency, the Devils did an impressive job overall during that offseason. The optimism could’ve not been any higher for the fans of the franchise and Ray Shero himself. While it is a shame that the season went badly, and Shero got fired during the year, this offseason was successful enough. It does give an imaginative idea on have been like if the 2019-2020 season had gone better.
2020 Offseason- Optimism Ranking: Low
Because of COVID-19, not only did the Devils season ended earlier than expected, but the pandemic moved a lot of the season’s dates. During that time, the Devils hired Lindy Ruff as their new coach. In the 2020 NHL Draft, the Devils got skilled winger Alexander Holtz. Holtz is a future piece that would help with the scoring. When the free agency period did begin, the Devils did make some moves. With Andy Greene and Cory Schneider now on the Islanders, the Devils needed another goalie to pair with Mackenzie Blackwood. So, GM Tom Fitzgerald went out there and got a veteran goalie in Corey Crawford. Unfortunately, Crawford retired before he even got a chance to play with the Devils. But once again, the Devils are looking for a defenseman since that continued to be an issue with them.
They would later acquire Ryan Murray in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Devils received left-winger Andreas Johnsson in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for their final acquisition. Having Johnsson would help the Devils get a young player looking to branch out as a player. The optimism on this offseason was low for one reason. The Devils certainly had a lot of cap space to give out to free agents. There could’ve been a lot more players the Devils could’ve gotten that year, like Mike Hoffman as a significant example.
2021 Offseason- Optimism Ranking: High
The most recent offseason has brought a lot of happiness and hope to the franchise. The Devils had over $30 million in their cap space when free agency started. Thankfully, unlike many other offseason on this list, they utilized the cap to go after guys they need. It all began when the Devils drafted Luke Hughes in the 2021 NHL Draft. Not only did it make Jack happy, but it also gave an idea of what the Devils’ defense could be in the future. Then the Devils Devils traded for Ryan Graves from the Colorado Avalanche.
Once the first day of free agency came, the Devils showcased that they aren’t messing around by acquiring Dougie Hamilton and Jonathan Bernier. When they acquired free agent Tomas Tatar eight days later, the fanbase became excited about the potential future with the team. Additionally, the Devils also gave contracts to Yegor Sharangovich and Janne Kuokkanen, two guys who have been great during last season. This offseason has brought a lot of high optimism, and because of the wise decisions made by Tom Fitzergald, he showcased how the team can become better in just a few short years.
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