Alex Hoysradt, Staff Writer
Key Additions: Mike Cammalleri (LW), Martin Havlat (RW), Scott Clemmensen (G)
Key Losses: Mark Fayne (D), Anton Volchenkov (D)
For the first time in 20 years the New Jersey Devils will enter the season without the legendary Martin Brodeur in net. The Devils let the 42-year-old goaltender leave via free agency as they pass the torch to Cory Schneider. Last season, the Devils missed the playoffs by just five points. With a solid offseason and further development of their top prospects, New Jersey looks to make a return to the postseason for the first time since their run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.
During the 2013-2014 season the Devils offense had trouble scoring, ranking 27th in goals. Despite that, New Jersey received solid contributions from the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr with 24 goals and Adam Henrique with 25. While the Devils did not score much overall, they ranked 9th in the NHL on the power-play, converting 19.5 percent of their chances. In an effort to bolster their scoring they signed Mike Cammalleri to a five-year contract and Marty Havlat to a one-year low-risk, high-reward deal. When healthy, Havlat is a potent goal scorer, but in his 13-year career he has played more than 65 games just seven times. The main reason the Devils missed the playoffs was their historically poor performance in shootouts, going 0-13. Had New Jersey won just three of those shootouts they would’ve made the playoffs. They will lean on Jagr, Henrique, Cammalleri, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac to put the puck in net. With a veteran heavy group mixed with youngsters, the Devils hope that their offense is revived in 2014.
On defense, New Jersey was 6th in the league in goals-against and first in penalty killing, at 86.4 percent. The defense looks to be a strength of this team for the first time since the Scott Stevens/Scott Niedermayer/Ken Daneyko days. In the offseason, the Devils made a smart move by extending Andy Greene, arguably their best defenseman, for $25 million over five years. They also signed their top defensive prospect Eric Gelinas to a one-year, $900,000 contract. Gelinas and fellow prospect Jon Merrill got their feet wet in the NHL last season and look to continue their development. Overall, this group looks to be a good one, anchored by Greene, Gelinas, Merrill, Marek Zidlicky and Adam Larsson.
The Martin Brodeur era in New Jersey is officially over, paving the way for Cory Schneider to become the every day goalie. At only 28-years-old, Schneider is the netminder of the future as he signed a seven-year deal in the offseason. There are questions about how he will perform over the course of 82 games as a starter, something he has not done in his career. When Schneider played in Vancouver, he split time with Roberto Luongo and did the same last season with Brodeur. In the 45 games he started in 2013, Schneider posted a strong save percentage of .921 percent and a Goals Against Average of 1.97. While there are questions about how he will perform as the sole starter, Schneider is very talented and should do just fine. For the backup job, 25-year old Keith Kinkaid will be competing with former Devil Scott Clemmensen. Clemmensen was signed to a one-year, $600,000 contract, so if Kinkaid wins the job, the Devils can release him without much trouble.
After a season in which they just missed the playoffs, the strong offseason moves made by General Manager Lou Lamoriello can push this team over the threshold and back to playing postseason hockey.