Possible Devils Free Agent Acquisitions
It’s no surprise the New Jersey Devils have many holes to fill in the team this offseason. One place to bolster the roster for 2014-15 may be by taking a particularly good look at the NHL’s crop of free agents, which includes some big names, some expensive names, and some real good goal scorers.
First things first, the Devils need to score more, and there are some good goal scorers on the market that would fit in nicely. The current Devils team has a plethora of right wingers, but only three left wingers, leaving room for a player like Thomas Vanek, a left winger with an excellent scoring touch. He’s notched over 20 goals every season in the NHL, including some years with a bad Buffalo Sabres team and 17 in 47 games with the Islanders this past season before being traded. Vanek might come with a hefty asking price, but his scoring touch would give the Devils the big time threat they’ve been missing. Other good goal scorers likely to hit the market include Marian Gaborik, Jarome Iginla, and Mike Cammaller — they are all a bit older than Vanek, but they do know the back of the net. Benoit Pouliot of the Rangers will also be a free agent. He had an effective goal scoring season with 15 goals and seven power play goals.
The Devils can use a strong top line center and faceoff guys, and a couple of good centers; Ryan Callahan and Paul Stastny will be available. However, it is unlikely the Devils would break the bank for a guy like Callahan, who’s not really a top liner, and they probably won’t spend big on two players in the off-season. That means it might be a question of Stastny or Vanek.
Two former Devils’ stalwarts will be free agents after the season. It would be interesting to see if General Manager Lou Lamoriello brings back Scott Gomez or Brian Gionta, as both players may be looking for new employers after this season. Though I highly doubt the Devils want to get much older, a homecoming with one of these former Devils would deepen the roster.
An offseason-priority should be getting a shootout specialist to try and reverse the horrible shootout misfortunes the Devils have suffered lately. In an article by Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger and NJ.com, Lamoriello is quoted as saying, “You cannot just go looking for a shootout player. But, because of our situation this year, subconsciously when you’re looking at different people, one of the areas you will look at as far as what his assets are is how did he do in shootouts? If it came down to two players totally equally, everything the same, and we had to make a judgment on which player we wanted to make an offer, if one had a better shootout record I think common sense would prevail in what you’re going to do.”
One name suggested in the story is Michael Handzus, who has scored on 45.2% of his shootout attempts. Handzus is a free agent, and though he is 37, it may be worth the risk for a year to try and give this team some confidence in the shootout.
In terms of defensemen, the Devils are getting a bit up there in age with their D-men, but a couple of names that stand out include Brooks Orpik and Andrei Markov. These players could make the Devils’ defense grittier and add more offense, as well.
Other ways to fill the Devils’ needs are through the draft and the promotion of AHL players from the Albany Devils. I wouldn’t doubt seeing at least a few new names on the team from this group next year, especially one of the big goal scorers. I’ll write more on those routes towards rebuilding in future columns.