The New Jersey Devils have signed just one forward—Kurtis Gabriel—in free agency, but it hasn’t been for lack of trying. GM Ray Shero spoke to media today including radio play-by-play announcer Matt Loughlin and admitted that the team had pursued James van Riemsdyk and Patrick Maroon, before they both ultimately signed elsewhere. Maroon specifically was offered more money to stay in New Jersey than he received from the St. Louis Blues, but made the decision to return to his hometown and play closer to his young son.
New Jersey has an incredible amount of cap space this summer, but can’t seem to find any free agents to spend it on after trying and failing with a few forwards. Michael Grabner, who also was acquired at the trade deadline like Maroon, signed a three-year deal with the Arizona Coyotes. The Devils have a good young group of players and a superstar in Taylor Hall they have to start thinking about an extension for—Hall has two years remaining on his current deal—but could still afford to add a few names and salary before the beginning of the year. They made the playoffs in 2017-18 somewhat surprisingly and should try to continue that level of play going forward.
There’s plenty of work to do for the Devils, who have seven restricted free agents still to sign, but it is surprising there hasn’t been more announced so far. There is obviously opportunities to use that cap space as an asset, similar to the way they took Marcus Johansson off the hands of the Washington Capitals last year for a discounted price. If more situations like the reported Erik Karlsson-Tampa Bay negotiations—ones that have apparently included a search for a third team to take on salary—arise this summer you can bet the Devils will be involved.
Still, it is disappointing for a fan base that was hoping for some substantial additions in free agency. Maroon fit in quite well with the team after coming over from the Edmonton Oilers, scoring 13 points in 17 games for them down the stretch and adding some size up front. van Riemsdyk too could have given them an elite net front presence and added goal scoring, something they could use as they try to support Hall and Nico Hischier going forward. There isn’t much left on the open market, meaning they might have to wait until next season to really take part in the free agent frenzy.