The New Jersey Devils have had a phenomenal off-season by every measure. They lucked into the 1st overall pick and locked up Nico Hischier. They acquired Marcus Johansson for pennies on the dollar. They’ve shed salaries and ditched older, under-performing players. They bought out Mike Cammalleri and Devante Smith-Pelly for measly penalties and are embracing a full rebuild. About the only thing that could have gone better is if Ilya Kovalchuk’s rights were dealt for a king’s ransom.
According to Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe, GM Ray Shero may not be done in trying to improve his team. Obviously, he needs to round out his depth, as there are only 34 contracts locked up, and the bottom lines and AHL need filling out. He also needs to re-sign RFAs Damon Severson, Stefan Noesen, Joseph Blandisi, and 6 others. Still, his team will find itself in the bottom 5 teams in cap expenditure, with $19.42 MM in space before any of these lesser signings. That leaves the management plenty of room to manuever.
Shinzawa suggests that Shero may utilize his relationship with Nashville GM David Poile to secure some extra scoring, considering the hefty sums they will need to hand out to RFAs Viktor Arvidsson and Ryan Johansen. While this is a possibility, it’s hard to see which contract Nashville would be willing to move. It’s perhaps more likely that Shero pursues a young defenseman. Anaheim still has a wealth of talent, and if they wanted to go the more aged route, Detroit is in a financial bind on the backend. Another name which might confuse some but who has a long relationship with Shero is Penguins’ D Olli Maatta. Maatta has vastly underperformed since signing his contract extension in Pittsburgh, and for the right price could be available. Vegas is still very willing to negotiate hockey deals, and their promising defenseman include the likes of Colin Miller and Shea Theodore.
Shero’s best ally right now is the cap crunch other teams are feeling. A productive forward could be sniped from Toronto on the cheap, and Chicago still needs to shed money somewhere along the line if the Marian Hossa LTIR situation goes south. He’s known primarily for his trade prowess which helped solidify the 2009 championship team in Pittsburgh, and it wouldn’t be out of character for him to again heavily work the phones. Hischier will need some sort of support, as the roster as it stands, while better than last year, is still incredibly lean.