FanPost

Armchair GM

It has been a long and tumultuous decision for the fans of the New Jersey Devils. As it stands, the Devils are three points out of the playoffs with nine games to play. To add insult to injury, they are also mired in one of the worst scoring slumps in recent memory, shooting at a mere 5.5% over the last seven games, coincidentally building a mental block when it comes to closing games out. As a diehard fan, it pains me to say it, but the playoffs are no longer in the cards for this team. With the lineups essentially set for the remainder of the season, the Devils must now turn their energies towards the NHL Draft and free agency.

Before we go about rebuilding the roster of the Devils let us identify the tools at our disposal for the offseason.

1. The Devils have both (2) Compliance Buyouts available, allowing the team to buy out two players full contracts with no cap penalty.

2. In this year’s draft the Devils have 5-6 picks

a. 1st Round Pick (Devils must choose between this year or next year to forfeit a first round pick due to cap circumvention of Ilya Kovalchuck)

b. 2nd Round Pick

c. 4th Round Pick

d. Two 5th Round Picks (from Florida and Buffalo)

e. 6th Round Pick

3. Trades

4. Free Agency

With all of these tools in our arsenal let us move on to the task of building a playoff contender.

Subtractions (Information from capgeek.com)

The First step of the offseason is recognizing who will be leaving and the effect that it will have on the roster. Free agents for this season are as follows.

1. Patrick Elias (UFA)

2. Dainius Zubrus (UFA)

3. David Clarkson (UFA)

4. Steve Sullivan (UFA)

5. Alexi Ponikarovski (UFA)

6. Tom Kostopolous (UFA)

7. Marek Zidlicky (UFA)

8. Peter Harrold (UFA)

9. Matt D’Agostini (RFA)

10. Jacob Josefson (RFA)

11. Adam Henrique (RFA)

12. Andrei Loktionov (RFA)

13. Colin White (Buyout penalty)

UFA – Unrestricted Free Agent (may sign with anyone without compensation)

RFA – Restricted Free Agent (May sign an offer sheet with another team, however owning team may decide to match or choose draft compensation)

These moves clear over $15 million in cap space giving the Devils $26,187,500 in cap space to play with in free agency.

At Risk Players (Players who may receive a compliance buyout for next season)

Unfortunately, hockey is a business and sometimes a player is no longer worth the money he is receiving. Luckily for the Devils, the latest CBA gives them the option to cut this player with no effect on their salary cap for next season which is set for a very modest $64 million. As the GM I would only utilize one of my Compliance Buyouts…

1. Anton Volchenkov – Cap hit of $4.25 million through 2015 – 16

Volchenkov was the recipient of a brutal injury in the offseaon. While playing for the KHL he broke his ankle. What was seen as an inconvenient injury, has really meant much more to his career than what was expected. While never a great skater, he has lost all of his zip, often leaving him out of position and out of the play. His toughness has never been questioned, but with no ability to get back into position following any of his hits he has seen a major spike in penalty minutes with his worst penalty per 60 minutes rating in his career and a plummeting plus/minus rating. At $4.25 mil per season this contract will be next to impossible to move meaning the only way to get it of the team is via buyout.

UPDATED CAP SPACE - $30,437,500

Who’s left?

With all leaving players accounted for, who is left to build around for next season?

1. Ilya Kovalchuck

2. Travis Zajac

3. Ryan Carter

4. Steve Bernier

5. Stephen Gionta

6. Krys Barch

7. Henrick Tallinder

8. Bryce Salvador

9. Andy Greene

10. Mark Fayne

11. Adam Larsson

12. Martin Brodeur

13. Johan Hedberg

And while on the subject, I expect three of the Devils current RFAs to return to the team

14. Adam Henrique – Projected 2 years $2.25 mil 1-way

15. Jacon Josefson – Projected 2 years $935 K 2-way

16. Andrei Loktionov – Projected 2 years $1.5 mil 1-way

UPDATED CAP SPACE - $25,752,500

Who will be promoted to the Devils next season?

There is no point in denying it, the Devils AHL affiliate in Albany is not exactly stacked with talent like the Rangers or Ottawa. However, they do have several players who are ready to contribute at an NHL level. Next year you will see two prospects make the team and start the season in the NHL.

17. Jon Merrill

18. Stefan Matteau

Jon Merrill has been NHL ready for several years now, he is a big bodied puck moving defenseman that has been compared to Ryan Suter on several occasions. The biggest hold up to his development, however, has been his own head, having been suspended by Michigan several times for violations of team rules. What can’t be denied is that the kid is productive when he plays. He was a top pairing D man at Michigan, a top pairing D man for the USA national junior team, and with his excellent skating and poise and advanced positioning, he is ready to make his mark in the NHL. The most important piece to his development now, is the organizational commitment to professionalism. With quality players of character around him, perhaps some of that work ethic and commitment to team success will rub off.

Stefan Matteau already has seen NHL action and to put it bluntly, he was raw. Luckily for him, he was some real NHL ice time and showed some promise as a power forward. Eventually, he was returned to the minors for the remainder of the season where he could take that NHL knowledge and apply it in a training environment. With one year already burned off his contract, it might behoove the Devils to capitalize on what they already have. Matteau will fill either a second or third line power forward role on next year’s Devils squad.

UPDATED CAP SPACE - $23,902,500

Devils Depth Chart prior to FA 2013

Forwards

Ilya Kovalchuck

Travis Zajac

Andrei Loktionov

Adam Henrique

Ryan Carter

Stephen Gionta

Steve Bernier

Krys Barch

Jacob Josefson

Stefan Matteau

Defense & Goalies

Andy Greene

Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur

Bryce Salvador

Jon Merrill

Johan Hedberg

Mark Fayne

Henrik Tallinder

Looking at this team right now, it’s not exactly impressive. The Devils to start next season are lacking in top 6 and bottom 6 scoring. they have solid two way players and decent playmakers but lack finishing ability. From my chair I see a team that needs at least one more sniper and a real gritty scorer in the top six.

Expect a lot of changes coming in the bottom six. Point of emphasis is to add some toughness to their last checking line. Many times this season they lacked a player who could energize the team with a big hit or pesky play.

Finally expect the Devils to pick up a depth defenseman meaning there are 7 spots that must be filled through trades or free agency.

The Devils have needs. But to be specific, they have to emphasize speed above all else. If the Devils can get faster it will greatly improve their ferocity on the forecheck and go a long way into opening up the ice for improved scoring chances in the offensive zone and transition.

Lets recap:

1. Top 6 sniper

2. Top 6 Power Forward

3. Speedy 2/3 line winger

4. Bottom 6 grinder

5. Bottom 6 scorer

6. Reserve forward

7. Reserve Defenseman

Free agency 2013

If there was ever a year to make a splash in free agency, this must be the year. With a dearth of solid free agents to be, they can address most if not all their needs First of all, Patrick Elias will be resigned and fill the need for a second line left winger.

Next I would focus my energies on signing Nathan Horton. This is the first line winger that the Devils have been looking for. He plays very similar to David Clarkson in gritty blue collar goals, however he has been a very consistent goal scorer and point producer over his career. Playing off Ilya Kovalchuck will give Horton the rebounds that he feasts off of and a finisher that he can free up with his physical play. Horton will not come cheap but with ample cap space and a need for production he will be well worth the investment.

Perhaps a little less ambitious, signing Brandon Yip will be a boon the bottom six scoring that the Devils have lacked. Perhaps not the strongest or fastest player, he fits into the Devils system because it relies on hockey smarts to make plays. He will be the best bottom six shooter the Devils have had in years

Back to the 2/3 line scorer, the speedy Mason Raymond is the next one in line. This is another player that will garner a nice raise in pay but again, he will be worth it. A perennial 20 goal threat and one of the fastest wingers in the NHL, he may even contend for a slot on the first line with Kovy, giving the devils that transition threat that they lack.

Ryan O’Byrne is the only defenseman the Devils should bring in. A very physical stay at home defenseman, he would be an excellent pairing with a young puck mover like Jon Merrill, allowing Merrill to take some chances and cover up his growing pains. A solid mid level depth defenseman.

Finally, The Devils should sign Raffi Torres. He’s that physical spark the devils need on their fourth. He should be a relatively cheap option and very good at his enforcer duties.

Let’s recap:

1. Patrick Elias – Projected 2 years $3 mil

2. Nathan Horton – Projected 4-5 years $5.5 mil

3. Brandon Yip – Projected 2-3 years $2 mil

4. Mason Raymond – Projected 4 years $4.75 mil

5. Ryan O’Byrne – Projected 2 years $3 mil

6. Raffi Torres – Projected 1 year $1.5 mil

UPDATED CAP SPACE - $4,152,500

Post Free Agency Depth Chart

Forwards

Ilya Kovalchuck

Travis Zajac

Nathan Horton

Patrick Elias

Adam Henrique

Mason Raymond

Brandon Yip

Andrei Loktionov

Ryan Carter

Steve Bernier

Stephen Gionta

Raffi Torres

Defensemen/Goalies/Reserves

Andy Greene

Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur

Krys Barch

Jon Merrill

Bryce Salvador

Johan Hedberg

Henrik Tallinder

Mark Fayne

Ryan O’Byrne

Stefan Matteau

Likelihood of this all happening?

Realistically next to nothing, however this blueprint is easily achievable and will set up the New Jersey Devils for playoff success come next May.

Thoughts?

All FanPosts and FanShots are the respective work of the author and not representative of the writers or other users of In Lou We Trust.

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