Devils Address Offensive Needs Through Free Agency
Many NHL teams went into July 1 with hopes of addressing their offensive stuggles through the signing of a high-caliber scoring talent, and one of those teams were the New Jersey Devils. This team struggled to score goals all season, and despite having a positive goal and shot differential, the Devils ranked 27th in the “goals for” category in the NHL for the 2013-14 regular season.
Under long time general manager Lou Lamoriello, New Jersey has always been a “defense first” style of team, with greats such as Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer at the blue line. Unfortunately for them, it’s a new era where many teams that are successful are based on a high power offense and a steady defense. So, with the issue of adding goalscorers being extremely blatant going into free agency, “Uncle Lou”, as many Devil fans refer to him as, took advantage of $13 million in cap space and helped fill the Devils desperate need for talent up front.
The most prolific forward the Devils signed was forward Mike Cammalleri to a five year, $25 million contract ($5M AAV). The 5’9” speedy winger with a wicked wrist shot and quick hands was drafted in the second round by the Los Angeles Kings in 2001, and has since played for Montreal and Calgary. On a rebuilding Flames team that went 35-40-7, Cammalleri managed to post 45 points in 63 games played, scoring 26 times and tallying 19 assists. With a Devils team that has a good center in Travis Zajac, and NHL legend Jaromir Jagr, Cammalleri should have no problem putting up points with a better supporting cast, as long as he can stay healthy. He will also bring intangibles such as his leadership, after being an assistant captain on every team that he has played for. The Devils will hope that this quality in the 32 year old veteran will show younger players such as Adam Henrique the path to NHL stardom. Cammalleri’s speed, shot, and finesse style of play will help diversify and bolster a struggling offense that will need to give goaltender Cory Schneider goal support if they wish to make the playoffs this upcoming season.
Martin Havlat, the other newest New Jersey forward, was a low risk, possible high reward gamble that was taken by Lou Lamoriello on July 1st. At $1.5 million over one year, Havlat’s signing was a small risk to take in hopes that a new system with new players will reignite him to his former goalscorer status after being bought out by the Sharks. The 33 year-old Czech forward will play with many other fellow countrymen such as Patrik Elias, Jaromir Jagr, and Marek Zidlicky, who all played together on the 2014 Czech Olympic hockey team. Despite only playing 48 games in the 2013-14 season for the San Jose Sharks, Havlat posted 12 goals and 10 assists for a total of 22 points. The Devils’ best hope is that his already existing chemistry with other forwards on the team will elevate Martin’s level of play, and that his speed will help make the offense a little more versatile with slower wingers on the team such as Dainus Zubrus and Ryane Clowe.
Other Devils News
-The New Jersey Devils also re-signed Stephen Gionta to a two year, $1.7 million contact ($850K AAV).
-Steve Bernier also re-signed for one year, $600K. Goaltender Scott Clemmenson, a former Devil, was signed to a one year, two way contract worth $600K.
-Devils free agent defenseman Mark Fayne signed a four year, $14 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers ($3.5M AAV).
-As per Rich Chere, the Devils are “close” on a contract extension with goaltender Cory Schneider.
-Ryan Carter is also being negotiated with on a new contract with New Jersey.
-Keith Kinkaid, Maxime Clermont, and Corbin McPherson were all signed to two-way deals.
(Statistics in article are from ESPN.com, HockeyDB.com)
By Drew Williams