Free Agents & The Devils: Take 1

This is not to be confused with Free Agent Devils: Take 1, which is about the Devils who will become free agents this summer.  This is about the open market.  The players who are about to become free agents that Lou & Co. can make an offer and sign.

Now, according to NHL Numbers, the Devils currently have $40.45 million committed to the cap for next season.  This is assuming the Devils don't sign anyone and we know that's not true.  As stated in the last post about free agency, Lou expects to sign all the restricted free agents (RFAs), and frankly, it's a good idea.  I don't know what the final total will be, but expect Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, and Petr Vrana to run about $5 million.  Even if the cap doesn't change, that's roughly $10 million to use on other free agents.  Assuming, of course, the salary cap doesn't come down.

Of course, that pool of money available becomes lesser if the Devils are able to retain Johnny Oduya as well as any other Devils from this past season; for example, Brendan Shanahan or John Madden on a discount.   The more Devils return, the less likely the Devils can make a play for the big names available this summer. I think Oduya at a minimum must be resigned and that could be up to another $3 million right there.  Already, that amount available could fall to about $7 milllion and you know that all of it can't be spent as to avoid handcuffing the team to the same roster all year - praying injuries do not strike the team like they did in, say, 2006-07.

I also don't expect or want the Devils to make an offer sheet for any restricted free agents.  The price is steep and it would pretty much kill any potential of trading with that team - and many others - in the forseeable future.   Not to mention increasing the possibility of it happening to the Devils in 2011 when Zach Parise becomes a RFA.   That all said, based on NHL Numbers' list of RFAs for this summer, I don't see any RFAs this summer that would be worth the headaches that an offer sheet could bring.  So let's consider the UFAs available.

I'm looking at NHL Numbers' list of UFAs for this summer and I don't think Lou will make a play for a lot of the bigger names anyway.  Teams will be falling over face first to snag Marian Hossa.  I don't think Lou can even throw $7-8 million at Hossa without putting the teams' depth in doubt.    Martin Havlat has finally had a full, healthy season with Chicago; and he's good friends with Elias.  Yet, I think he'll be too expensive for the same reason Hossa will cost so much: a very talented, productive winger in his prime. Regardless of his past injury problems, expect someone to throw $6+ million/year at Havlat and expect that same someone to find religion so they can pray Havlat stays healthy.

The Devils don't have a serious need at right wing anyway.  Brian Rolston can step in for Brian Gionta's spot on the roster if Gionta goes elsewhere.  Moreover, the Devils' top prospect in Lowell is Nicklas Bergfors, a right winger.    Left wing is definitely not an issue with Parise, Patrik Elias, Jay Pandolfo, and PLLL/Rupp already on the roster.

The Sedin twins also become unrestricted this summer.  The Devils, I think, should only consider Henrik as he's the center.  New Jersey is already set at left wing, so there's no need for Daniel.  If the Devils could snag Henrik Sedin, any issues at center with the top two lines would be solved.  Dainius Zubrus can fill in other holes, and Elias and Gionta/Rolston has a proper set-up man in the middle.  However, if Henrik wants to stay with Daniel, then this isn't happening.  Maybe Dominic Moore or Nik Antropov would be a better option at center this summer? 

The big name on defense is Jay Bouwmeester.  He's a stud defender who can do it all and at age 25, the best is yet to come.  A rare find, indeed.  Which is why the Devils have little to no shot at getting him.  Remember that Brian Campbell got $6 million/year last year from Chicago.  Watch as some team offers Jay-Bo a similar or better contract.  While I would love to see him in Devils red, he alone would be the team's only significant and it could seriously prevent the Devils from keeping Paul Martin after next summer. Bouwmeester and his people would be stupid to accept $5 million/year or less - even if Jay wants a sure-shot to the playoffs (and the Devils are as sure of a shot as any). This is doubly unfortunate when there doesn't seem to be another impact defenseman under 30 years old in the free agent pool this summer, which will make re-signing Oduya to be a real challenge.

At least there appears to be plenty of possible backup goaltender material available!

I could be wrong on all of this.  Still, I'd like to know what you all think the Devils' needs are.  This way we can break down what the needs are and approach more viable free agent options from there.    While I don't think the big free agents are coming to New Jersey, the right player could still be out there.

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