The New Jersey Devils were a once-dominant franchise. Led by Martin Brodeur the Devils won the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000, and 2003. Unfortunately, the Devils have not had the same success recently as they had in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Despite having successes in 2011-12 and 2017-18 where they made the playoffs, the team has struggled to become a product that could stand up in today’s NHL. With lots of young talent on the roster, the Devils could be back in Stanley Cup contention very soon.
Why the Devils Missed the Playoffs
You may think that the Devils had won the 2019 offseason. They managed to draft Jack Hughes 1st overall, as well as acquiring P.K. Subban in a trade. Not to mention acquiring the electric Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights.
All these moves that were supposed to push the Devils over the edge and get them into the playoffs failed and the Devils finished 26th in the entire league. Despite all the moves to improve their offense, the Devils finished 25th in goals, scoring only 185 goals last season. They also allowed 224 goals during the shortened regular season. If the Devils want to be successful they need to acquire some shutdown defense to replicate the style they played when they won their Stanley cups.
Another reason the Devils failed to make the playoffs was coach John Hynes. His style of play made the Devils look really sloppy, especially on defense. Thankfully the Devils fired him and replaced him with interim coach Alain Nasreddine, who has at least made them a little better. During the offseason, the Devils decided to not keep Alain Nasreddine as their coach. Instead, they hired long time head coach Lindy Ruff.
What Will the Devils Look For With Lindy Ruff?
With the New Jersey Devils hiring Lindy Ruff during the offseason, they need to expect several decisions and help from Ruff. Ruff could really help the younger players like Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier grow into better players.
New Jersey is actually in a fantastic position with their cap space as they have about 26 million dollars to spend this offseason. Although they are in a good position for their cap space they do have some contracts that they probably regret signing or acquiring.
The former Norris Trophy winner got traded to the Devils during the 2019 offseason. Since joining the Devils he has struggled to produce as he once did. Subban had his worst statistical season in his NHL career this past season. Subban may bounce back to his former self but it is unlikely and his $9 million cap hit will be a huge overpayment for his lack of production.
Cory Schneider was considered the face of the franchise when he was traded from the Vancouver Canucks in the 2013 NHL Draft. Schneider has struggled in his time in New Jersey but this season has been one of his worst in his career. It all began when he got injured on Opening Night against the Winnipeg Jets. The Devils were leading 4-0 when Schneider suffered a lower-body injury and had to leave the game. Since the injury, Schneider played his way to a .887 save percentage and a 3.53 goals-against average.
Due to his poor play, he lost his starting goalie position as Mackenzie Blackwood outplayed him. Schnieder still has two years left on his contract and he is making 6 million dollars a season. His lack of production and decline of play makes this contract look awful.
The 2017 first overall pick has been a solid player in his three-year career. Hischier is still improving and looks to be a promising player in the NHL for years to come. The only reason he is on this list is because of his sizable cap hit. The Devils are paying Hischier 7.25 million dollars for the next 7 years. Hischier has only reached 50 points once in his career so this contract may be an overpayment for the Devils.
The Devils have some young talent on their roster that need new contracts as their rookie contracts have expired. The Devils must lock down these key contributors to long term contracts before they can be competitive again.
The 22-year-old Swedish forward is a speedy player that is one of the best Devils players. Bratt scored 16 goals and added 16 assists during the 60 game regular season. Bratt is always one of the most effective players for the Devils and deserves a big pay raise. Bratt’s new contract should be around 4-4.5 million dollars. The length of the new contract should be at least 4 or 5 years. This deal is fair for both sides and Bratt should be able to help the Devils for a long time.
The 23-year-old goaltender got thrust into the starting goalie position after the previously mentioned Cory Schneider injury. The Canadien goaltender was surprisingly good as he posted a 2.77 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage in 47 games. The Devils owe him a large pay raise thanks to his fantastic season. The new contract should be in the range of 5 or 6 years and worth at least 6 million dollars. This deal would ensure that Blackwood would be the starting goalie for the foreseeable future.
Free Agent Targets
Athanasiou is a dynamic two-way centerman that the New Jersey Devils should heavily pursue. Athanasiou has played for the Detroit Red Wings and the Edmonton Oilers during his career. His next stop should be in New Jersey. The Devils need some help down the middle and Athanasiou can be the center to help fix this issue. He is constantly improving as his point production has only gone up during his career. With the Devils, his numbers will continue to rise as he will be surrounded by lots of young talent.
The Penguins right winger had a down year this past season. He scored 10 goals and added 13 assists during his time playing for the Sabres and Penguins. Sheary is a guy who always tries and positions himself in front of the net to try to put the puck in. Sheary will do wonders with Jack Hughes and Nikita Gusev. If the Devils do sign Sheary, he should bounce back to the 50 point form he had during the 2016-17 season with Pittsburgh.
Another Pittsburgh player that the Devils should pursue this offseason is Justin Schultz. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman struggled this season and most likely will not return to the Penguins. Pittsburgh does not have a lot of cap space. The two time Stanley cup winner had a down year this past season with the Penguins. Schultz only scored three goals and added nine assists. Schultz is an offensive defenseman and will have the opportunity to control power play with the Devils.
Schultz will be a good veteran to add to the young Devils locker room. He will help show the young guys the ropes of how to be an NHL player. Schultz should get a short term deal about 2-3 years and he should make about 3-4 million dollars.
Cody Ceci is a former first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators. He has struggled to be a productive NHL defenseman during his career. This season with the Toronto Maple Leafs he only scored one goal and added 7 assists. He played over 20 minutes a night and the Toronto media still hates him. They are trying to force him out of the city. It sounds crazy but Cody Ceci deserves another chance and who better to try to restart his NHL career with than the Devils.
New Jersey is a rebuilding team and they need to get some veterans on their team to help the young players. The Devils should be able to sign Ceci for a short term deal and see if he can live up to the hype he had during his draft year. Ceci may be able to help the Devils get back on track to become Stanley Cup contenders.
The Devils have drafted some players over the past couple of years that should be ready to make the jump to the NHL. Prospects such as Ty Smith, Jesper Boqvist, and Nolan Foote are just a few players that should be ready to make the jump to the NHL. They are game-changing players and they will definitely make an impact when they get into the Devils lineup. The Devils also have three first-round picks in the upcoming draft. This upcoming draft is loaded with talent and the Devils will be able to add three young prospects to the system.
Overall the Devils have struggled the past few years and will be much-improved thanks to the new coach coming in and lots of young talent on their roster. With some veterans added to the team, the Devils should be right back into Stanley cup contention very soon.
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