Once again, the New Jersey Devils finished a mediocre season. They ended up with 63 points, just two ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers to avoid the cellar. However, there’s hope for this young team, as they’re starting to find their footing in the league. What’s in store for New Jersey in the upcoming season?
Johnny Gaudreau didn’t make his way to the Devils, nor did Matthew Tkachuk. But New Jersey still added left wingers galore this off-season, picking up Erik Haula (18 goals, 26 assists last season. Holla!) and Ondrej Palat (18 goals, 31 assists). These moves should provide depth for the Devils in the upcoming season, making their top-six much better.
Also, Vitek Vanecek is here! The Devils desperately needed goaltending since they were dead-last in team save percentage last season (.881). Vanecek might not be a flashy name from the market. But he’ll bring stability to New Jersey and make a nice platoon with Mackenzie Blackwood.
Brendan Smith also joins the Devils as a defenseman. The former Red Wing provides veteran leadership and will be a nice depth piece. John Marino (no relation to Dan) is another new defenseman that moves himself and the puck well. Many experts are penning him as a top defenseman in the league, which New Jersey has needed since the days of Scott Stevens. He’s young as well (25), which will bolster the rebuild significantly.
While the flurry of moves made by Tom Fitzgerald, there should be progress made in the season. The Devils have a solid top-six and can score in different ways. However, the team is still developing and there will be some growing pains.
Let’s rate the current roster based on the number of Puddys, ranging from one (the worst) to five (the best). Rating the Devils’ current roster, it’d be two Puddy’s out of five. There’s excitement there and New Jersey should score goals with ease. However, the team has a glass cannon feel to it, with a young, raw team and a developing back-check.
I’m going with a record of 33-41-8, which is good for 74 points in the Metropolitan Division. It’s also good for sixth, with the mainstays of Pittsburgh and Washington holding the fort down. It’ll be a challenge for this team to make any progress this year. However, adding a few more veteran pieces next off-season will streamline the Devils to the top, making them a force once again.
Bold Roster Prediction:
New Jersey’s probably going to be sellers at the trade deadline, again. Therefore, some pieces will be sent to acquire draft picks. I think Fitzgerald is going to do something crazy this season and give up Tomas Tatar, Andreas Johnsson, and Damon Severson for draft compensation.
Here’s the thing with these three. They’re all free agents after this season and take up the most salary among Devils that’ll hit the market after this year. Shedding these players frees up around $12 million in cap space and allows Fitzgerald to free up room for new players next season. These three also account for 14.7% of New Jersey’s cap space, so Fitzgerald will want to give the Devils a brighter future with more draft capital.