The first post-Lou Lamoriello year didn’t go as well as many fans in New Jersey would have hoped as the team missed the postseason by a dozen points. GM Ray Shero has some work to do to if he wants to turn this roster into a playoff contender for next season. Here is a look at their free agent situation.
Key Restricted Free Agents: Kyle Palmieri was a major bright spot for the Devils after being acquired at the 2015 draft from Anaheim. The 25 year old winger posted a career best 57 points (his previous high was 31) while adding 30 goals, leading the team in both of those categories. Palmieri earned just $1.6MM and could potentially triple that on a long-term deal.
Blueliner Jon Merrill is coming off his entry-level contract and has spent the last two years strictly in the NHL. However, various injuries (including shoulder surgery back in March) limited him to 47 games last year. Merrill is a candidate to move into a top-4 role for 2016-17 but may have to settle for a one year pact, allowing the team to evaluate how his shoulder heals and he how he fares in a bigger role.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents: Patrik Elias missed most of last season with knee problems (and underwent surgery again back in May) but still managed to pick up eight points in 16 games, a similar points-per-game mark as 2014-15. The 40 year old forward is clearly on the downswing of his career but still has the potential to be a second liner moving forward if he’s fully healthy.
David Schlemko was largely an unnoticed pick up for New Jersey last offseason but he wound up playing an important role for them, averaging 18:38 per game, good for fourth amongst Devils defensemen. He also picked up a career high in points with 17 in 67 games. Schlemko made just $625,000 last year but should be poised to receive a decent raise in free agency.
Cap Situation: The Devils find themselves with over $25MM in projected cap space, according to Cap Friendly. They have 6-7 roster spots to fill but New Jersey is not typically a spend-to-the-max team so while they have a lot of cap space, their actual budget room is likely considerably lower.