Well, we're just going to have to deal with it. The now prophetic words of Pat Moriss borne out out July 5, 2013, this summer's Free Agency Frenzy. As he told Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice, "New Jersey is the one facing life without David [Clarkson], so that’s up to Lou to answer that question." Indeed. We are living in a world without David Clarkson on the New Jersey Devils. We are also living in a world where Bower Power at Pension Plan Puppets made a convincing argument that a potato would have done a better job yesterday than Dave Nonis, the Leafs' general manager who signed Clarkson to a significant contract yesterday. What a world.
Since I haven't seen any comments or FanPosts here or tweets on Twitter claiming a tuber would have done a better job than Lou Lamoriello, I think it's fair to say that most Devils fans are at least content with what the Devils did yesterday. Despite apparent issues with ownership, the Devils opened up their wallets to acquire Ryane Clowe, Rostislav Olesz, and Michael Ryder. Clowe signed the biggest deal at five years and a total of $24.25 million; Ryder was inked for two years at $7 million, and Olesz got a one year deal for $700,000 with bonuses that bring up his cap hit to an even $1 million. That's a combined cap hit of $9.35 million on just July 5.
It remains to be seen whether the Devils spent that money wisely. The biggest concern comes with the biggest deal Lou made yesterday: the contract given to Ryane Clowe. Clowe can certainly be a big, physical forward who can make plays and be solid in possession. However, he's coming off a nightmare season of awful shooting luck and three concussions. The former doesn't concern me; he'll bounce back and I think the fans will grow to appreciate what he does on the ice. The latter is an especially noticeable red flag since future play may lead to further damage to his career, much less how useful he'll be to the Devils. I understand that Clowe said he was "100 percent" in Gulitti's post where Clowe discusses his newest deal. It's still something Devils fans are going to have in the back of their minds when he plays. That alone makes me wish that this contract was shorter or at least not as lucrative. So does the fact that Lou succeeded in getting his signature from several other teams; which reminds me of Brian Rolston - another Devil who was signed to a big contract that was ultimately regrettable. I think Clowe can definitely be a good player in New Jersey; I'm more sour about the contract than what he can do.
I'm nothing but sweet about the other two deals Lou made yesterday. The Devils signed Rostislav Olesz to a one year deal for not very much money. As much attention has been paid to what the Devils will do to increase scoring, the team's need at forward included their depth. That is, unless you want to see Mattias Tedenby and Krystofer Barch on a more regular basis than you'd like. Olesz only played in 14 games in all of 2012-13 with Rockford due to a ACL injury and subsequent recovery. He's got every reason to put in a big effort to stick around in the NHL and the Devils will give him that opportunity. I expect him to be contributing to the bottom six when he is in the lineup and should he do that, then we should see him regularly. If it doesn't work out for whatever reason, then he can be let go. It's a low-risk, some-reward deal that I like in general and a bit more in this case because I think Olesz will try to make the most of it.
The third and final UFA signing of the day was Michael Ryder. Ryder has been a fairly prolific scorer throughout his career and put up 16 goals and 19 assists last season for Dallas and Montreal. The Canadiens chose not to retain his services. Therefore, he was available and the Devils snapped him up. The concerns about Ryder is that he's really only useful when he's productive. He's not much of a defender, if at all and he's never been consistently positive possession player. He also ran hot in shooting percentage over the last two seasons; that could come down going forward. That said, Ryder does have a very good shot and his offensive talents could prove to be very useful to the power play. As I noted yesterday, this really does remind me of Petr Sykora, only Ryder's younger, a right-handed shot, and not Czech. The Devils can definitely "protect" Ryder defensively and should he put up a significant number of points, then that would be fine. What makes the Ryder acquisition even better is the contract. It's not that expensive at $3.5 million per year and it's only a two year commitment. It won't hold the Devils down too much if Ryder fizzles in New Jersey.
Between Clowe and Ryder, the Devils can make up for all the shots that Clarkson would've taken while quite possibly being more productive. Unlike Clarkson, both Clowe and Ryder can actually pick up assists by making effective passes on offense. Those two will surely fight for top six spots on the Devils. Olesz strengthens the depth of the forwards. All three are wingers and the Devils needed help there more than center; so I'd say Lou addressed needs as best as he could. I could be convinced that Viktor Stalberg (who went to Nashville on a great deal) or Damien Brunner (still unsigned as of this writing).would have been better signings; but I'm OK with what the Devils did. Especially in context with all of the other moves the Devils made earlier this week. They acquired Cory Schneider, who should provide an improvement at the goaltender position. They re-signed Patrik Elias ($5.5 million cap hit), Dainius Zubrus ($3.1 million cap hit), and Peter Harrold ($800k cap hit). They used a compliance buy out on Johan Hedberg to free up his $1.4 million in space, which was taken up in part by yesterday's signings. When taken all together, I think the Devils are a better team now than where they were a month ago. That's good, just not great or ideal.
Lou said that July 5th was a "good day" to Gulitti and will turn his attention to signing restricted free agents. This presents a bit of a problem for the Devils, though. After all of their re-signings and the contracts given out on July 5, the Devils only have $3,812,500 in cap space. The two biggest RFAs to sign are Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson. Both of them can and likely will take up much of that cap space. On top of that, Gulitti reported back on Wednesday that the Devils were still interested in bringing back Marek Zidlicky. I don't see how the Devils can give new deals to Henrique and Josefson and then a new one to Zidlicky. Even if the Devils don't bring back Zidlicky and want to call up one of their several defenseman prospects (or call someone else up as an injury replacement, etc.), they'll still need space to do so. I would expect Lou to make a move or two to free up some space to do that in the coming weeks, if not days. Maybe we'll finally see some defensemen getting moved, but one never knows with Lou Lamoriello. At least there's no need to compare him to a vegetable like the Leaf faithful are on this network.
All told, I'm comfortable with what the Devils did yesterday. Now I want to know your opinion. What do you think of what the Devils did yesterday? Are you more accepting (or less accepting) of what happened now that the initial shock wore off? Did you think the Devils should have done better, and if so, how? How are you handling life without David? Is Nonis worse than a potato? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about what the Devils did during yesterday's Free Agency Frenzy in the comments. Thank you for reading.