Mercifully, last season is a memory at this point. It's over. I speak for myself, but I feel like many of us Devils fans entered this off-season expecting much less activity than last summer. We feel that the current roster is full of NHL talent and that last season was an aberrationof things can go badly. On paper, last year's team should have been a playoff team. The 2009-10 team finished second in the conference. I won't waste the time to go over why last season went so poorly, because quite honestly, we've beaten that subject to death, and then we beat it up again. What I'd like to know is what kind of team we should expect for next season, and I don't mean a good team or a bad team. Are the Devils going to be a transitional, up-tempo team, a physical team, puck-possession, etc.?
Just when I thought I had a slight understanding of next season's roster (after Adam Larsson signed his ELC), Lou Lamoriello threw us all a change-up. He brought back an alumni, because no summer would be complete without the addition of a former Devil, Cam Janssen. While that was a head-scratcher, I thought nothing of it because it's a two-way deal, and the Devils will probably have him buried in Albany. Then Lou threw us another change-up. He signed Eric Boulton to a 2-year/1-way deal. Say what you want about the players, but to me, this didn't make any sense. I know John has a very well-written piece on the home page, so I won't go into this too much, but Adam Mair departs and PL3 is traded only to bring in two more "enforcers?"
I took two main points out of the two signings: a) David Clarkson won't be a Devil in the fall and b) Lou may not have an NHL role for Rod Pelley. Just by looking at raw stats, Boulton had more goals and the same number of points as Pelley last season (6-4-10 for Boulton, 3-7-10 for Pelley). Now Pelley's relative Corsi was a disastrous -15 last season, while Boulton was a slightly more manageable -6.4. Perhaps puck possession went into Lou's thought process.
The bottom line is adding Janssen and Boulton makes the Devils a team more prone to fighting. It's that simple. It doesn't necessarily make them more physical or a better puck possession team. Is Lou Lamoriello trying to re-incarnate the Crash Line of 1995? Is he trying to change the team's identity? I honestly have no answer to these questions, so if you think you do, please leave a comment trying to explain this.
Enough of those two players, the subject asks what kind of team next year's squad will be. The Devils have a surplus of young defensemen signed next season: Mark Fayne, Adam Larsson, Brandon Burlon, Alexander Urbom, Matt Corrente, likely adding Taormina and Fraser to that list as well (that excludes Jon Merrill, who is not signed). I also cannot remember if Eric Gelinas is signed, but he's another player to factor in. Many of those players will be quality defensemen someday, but their immediate impact on next year's team remains to be seen. In terms of veterans, Anton Volchenkov, Andy Greene, Henrik Tallinder and Colin White (likely) will be guaranteed roster spots. If Bryce Salvador is healthy and is not moved, he becomes a fifth defensemen, leaving just one available spot open for a defenseman. Let's assume either Fayne, Urbom or Taormina gets the sixth spot and one of the remaining two becomes the seventh defenseman (this also excludes the possibility of Fraser getting a 1-way deal in arbitration). (As a side note: Albany would be overloaded with defensemen, and remember: there's no Trenton Devils anymore for overflow.)
Then there's the forwards. The big story is Zach Parise and the status of his contract, or lack there of. In all liklihood, he'll be on the Opening Night roster, as will Kovalchuk, Zajac, Elias, Zubrus, Rolston, Josefson, Tedenby, Boulton, Steckel and Palmieri. I suppose the other forward on the team could be Janssen, although if you talk to Adam Henrique, he might have other ideas about that. There isn't much speculating to do with the forwards, assuming Parise is re-signed. The Devils forwards aren't terribly physical, but many of them are young and fast.
So there are the players, and now my question is what kind of team does that leave (also, feel free to point out many of the faults of my mock-roster)?