2/28/2012 New Jersey Devils Prospect Update: Albany Devils in a Playoff Spot, Blake Coleman, Matt Taormina's RFA/UFA Status and More!

Well, thankfully the trade deadline is over and the Devils still have all of their prospects! Below are updated statistics for the NCAA/CHL/AHL players and some other brief notes.

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The Albany Devils are poised to take a playoff spot. As of writing, the Albany Devils are 7th in the AHL Eastern Conference Standings. With games in hand on the teams in front of them and behind them, the A-Devs have 21 of their own games remaining and are certainly in control of their own destiny.

Eric Gelinas continues his impressive rookie professional season. With his 12th goal of the season over the weekend (7 on the power play), Gelinas has eclipsed any goal total from his CHL career and has moved into impressive territory within the history of the Devils minor league affiliates. Only two defensemen at the AHL level since 1993 have scored more than 12 goals in a season. In 1995-96 Richard Persson had 15 and Bryan Helmer had 14.

Want more impressive Gelinas stats? His 12 goals rank first among ALL defensemen in the AHL. He's also seventh in rookie scoring by a defenseman. Guess who's playing the point on power play unit in 2013-14 or sooner.

Matt Taormina: Besides being the trade deadline, yesterday was an important date for another reason. It was the date in which a player needed to be on an AHL roster in order to be eligible for the Calder Cup playoffs. As Tom Gulitti noted yesterday, Matt Taormina was briefly sent down to Albany in a paper transaction that makes him eligible. I am surprised that Jacob Josefson was not also sent down, but I suppose that he couldn't have been sent down and then play in last night's game vs the Rangers.

Speaking of Taormina, he's likely to fall under Group 6 free agency rights in the summer. So instead of being a restricted free agent (RFA) he will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and eligible to sign with any team on July 1st. Currently Capgeek.com has Taormina listed as an RFA (which is technically correct) but by season's end he will likely qualify for Group 6 UFA status.

First let's look at the definition of a group 6 free agency via NHL.com's link to the CBA. Bolded emphasis mine:

Group 6 Free Agents.

(i) Means any Player who is age 25 or older who has completed three (3) or more professional seasons, whose SPC has expired and: (i)in the case of a Player other than a goaltender, has played less than 80 NHL Games

There is more to that section but for brevity's sake I took out the key points. Group 6 free agency is available to a player after three criteria is hit: (1) age 25 or older (2) 80 NHL games (and per the CBA NHL games includes regular season and playoffs) and (3) completion of three professional seasons. Does Taormina hit all these criteria?

1. Age 25 or older. Right now Taormina is 25 years old, but in the eyes of the CBA it's not always about your current age it's about when you were born or how age is defined in a specific CBA section. Article 10, where Group 6 free agency (and all of free agency is discussed), does not define age. But we do have a recent example of a player, Ben Bishop, who is actually a month younger than Taormina (Bishop was born 11/21/86 and Taormina 10/20/86) that was dealt over the weekend specifically because of his pending Group 6 UFA status. Under the Group 6 criteria, Taormina is 25.

2. Three Professional Seasons/Expired Deal. Per his Capgeek.com page, Taormina has had a standard player contract for the years 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12. His current contract expires this year.

3. Played Less Than 80 NHL Games (regular season and playoffs): Right now, Taromina has played in 43 NHL games. To play in 80 NHL games, Taormina would need to play in a combination of 37 games between the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. The Devils have 20 regular season games left and there would be a maximum of 28 games in the playoffs. It's possible that he somehow plays in 37 more games this year, but I think it is highly unlikely.

If Taormina does end up qualifying as a Group 6 free agent, that doesn't mean that he won't be a Devil next year, rather it means that the Devils lose a lot of leverage in negotiations and would likely have to offer him a one-way contract to stay. If he was an RFA you could also trade his rights (similar to what Minnesota did in trading the Devils Maxim Noreau last year) for an AHL asset or draft pick.

With five key defensemen signed, Alexander Urbom/Eric Gelinas waiting in the wings, and Mark Fayne an RFA, they may not have the space/need to sign him anyway.

Blake Coleman continues to impress: After a slow start and only 2 points in his first 11 games, Coleman has adjusted to the college game and has put up an impressive 17 points in the 23 games since. In the middle of the pack as far as CCHA freshman scoring is concerned Coleman is looking at capturing a spot on the CCHA All Rookie Second Team. Even more impressive than his increased scoring, is the fact that he has put up 93 shots playing in a 2nd/3rd line role for the RedHawks.

That's it for this week, please leave any prospect related questions or comments below.

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