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New Jersey Devils Make First Moves, Have More to Make by October 6

As appropriate as it would be in this photo, Kovalchuk is not saying, "Welcome to the team, Matt Taormina" in this photo.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
As appropriate as it would be in this photo, Kovalchuk is not saying, "Welcome to the team, Matt Taormina" in this photo. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
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Today, the big news from the New Jersey Devils is that they've made another set of cuts.  As reported by Tom Gulitti this afternoon, Rob Davison, Jacob Josefson, Matthew Corrente, and Mattias Tedenby have been sent down to Albany of the AHL. Davison has to clear waivers, which is likely.  Goaltender Mike McKenna was already placed on waivers to be sent down last week (and cleared them); but has been re-assigned today.  The Devils go from having 28 left in camp to 23, the maximum number of players allowed on a NHL roster.

Of course, that group of 23 includes Anssi Salmela and Bryce Salvador. Salmela hasn't seen the ice in training camp and preseason, as he continues to rehab his knee.  Salvador was diagnosed with a concussion and has been listed as "out indefinitely" last Friday.  The Devils will most likely put both players on long term injured reserve (LTIR), which will reduce the roster to 21.   Until they are healthy, the Devils would be allowed to spend over the salary cap the equivalent of their cap hit. 

The remaining group of players do include defenseman Alexander Urbom, defenseman Matt Taormina, and forward Adam Mair.  As of now, Mair has not been signed to a contract.  Since he hasn't been released from his try out contract, I think it's likely he's made the team.

So are the Devils cap compliant to at least start the season?  No. The Devils have to make more moves by October 6 at 3 PM.   I'll explain the current situation -  even assuming Salvador and Salmela are put on LTIR and Mair gets signed. I'll also have additional thoughts about the roster decisions in general after the jump.

The Current Cap Situation

CapGeek is normally on the ball with respect to cap moves. Already, you can see Taormina and Urbom on the Devils' active roster.  However, for some reason, Vladimir Zharkov is also on the active roster and he was assigned to Albany last Tuesday.  So the additions of Taormina ($510,000) and Urbom ($870,000) with the subtraction of Zharkov ($850,000) is really a net of $530,000 added to the total Devils' cap situation.   That $2.968 million figure now goes up to a little over $3.428 (it's technically $3,428,334).

Now, you may be thinking, "Great.  Salmela's and Salvador's cap hits combined is $3.515 million.  $84,416 isn't a lot of space, but LTIR is the solution."  Not quite. Once either of those players becomes healthy, the Devils will be forced to make a move.  You can be sure the league will be looking very closely at anyone on LTIR to ensure they are truly unable to play and not just being stashed for cap relief.   Salmela getting healthy can be easily remedied by moving Urbom down to the AHL (Taormina wouldn't clear enough space).  Salvador becoming ready to play just puts the Devils back in the same difficult spot they are in now.

Of course, even in that situation the Devils would only have 11 forwards on the roster.  Unless the plan is to have a defenseman play forward, they're going to have to fill in Zharkov's spot at forward.  Based on his performance and the fact he's still around, that would be Adam Mair.  The NHL's minimum salary is $500,000, so if or when the Devils decide to sign Mair (or anyone else who isn't signed, e.g. Dean McAmmond, Brendan Morrison) then they'll be over the cap.   At least $415,834 over.

It's not only in the Devils' interest in the long term to make a move to dump salary, but if they want a full roster of 12 forwards and at least 6 defensemen, then they'll have to make another move.  Regardless of the fact they can put Salvador and Salmela on LTIR.  The Devils can trade players, waive them and send them down to Albany, or (thanks to Chicago) loan players out to a European league.   Gulitti wisely noted that if the Devils want to demote or loan players, they'll have to put them on waivers by noon tomorrow so they have enough time to clear for the October 6 deadline.   Keep your eyes peeled on the waiver wire for that potential next move.

The Demotions of Tedenby, Josefson, and Corrente

Truthfully, Mike McKenna really didn't have a shot of being the backup goaltender this year since the Devils spent $1.5 million for one year of Johan Hedberg's services to do just that.  I didn't think Rob Davison had a shot to surpass the other defenders in camp.  He only got one preseason game, which seems to justify that thinking.  However, I'm am surprised that among the remaining three young defenders, Matthew Corrente got the boot in favor of Alexander Urbom and Matt Taormina.  

Given the lack of offensive defensemen on the Devils, I thought Taormina had a long shot. However, going into camp, I felt the favorites were the more experienced Corrente and Tyler Eckford - each who had tastes of the NHL last season.  Well, Eckford didn't even play in a preseason game and Corrente only got 3 games.  The coaches had a much higher opinion of him, and earned 5 preseason games for his efforts.  In those games, Taormina produced a goal, an assist, and 6 shots on goal; along with some power play time.  As for Urbom, he too got 5 games and was even more productive with 3 assists and 9 shots on goal. 

Certainly, Urbom and Taormina made their marks when given the chance and as well as Corrente played, the Devils don't really need another physical, defensive defenseman.  This quote from Lou Lamoriello is heartening at least:

"Matt is just a victim of numbers at this point and we want to really take a good look at the two offensive defensemen—Urbom and Taormina. That’s all. Nothing else. He had his best camp since he’s been here and he’s taken great steps. He’s very close."

Perhaps we'll see Corrente sooner rather than later depending on what other moves New Jersey makes to their roster.  Though, if this was his best, then what more does he have to do?  Wait until space is cleared?  Wait until there's an injury and he can make his case similar to Mark Fraser last season?  Wait another season? Tedenby (20) and Josefson (19) are young and this is their first season of pro hockey on this continent.  Corrente's 22 and is heading into his third season of minor pro hockey.  If not now, then when?

That's part of the reason why I have no problem with the demotions of Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson.  Tedenby showed his speed and some of his other offensive skills in preseason.  Preseason also showed that Tedenby was easily moved off the puck.  In addition to getting stronger, getting acclimated to the North American game in Albany will benefit him in the long run.  If he happens to be crushing it in upstate NY, then the Devils can always recall him; though I'd prefer the NHL-experienced and future Corsi machine Zharkov to be the first choice for any call ups at wing.

Jacob Josefson got a similarly long look in camp as Tedenby, since each got 4 preseason games to play in.  However, Josefson wasn't strong on faceoffs (something Matt showed yesterday), he wasn't productive, and somehow went 4 games playing with NHL veterans on his wings and only registered 2 shots on net.    Like Tedenby, one could tell he's talented but at the same time could really use some time in the AHL.  Some more strength, more professional experience, and playing at the AHL level can only serve to help him.   As I've said on Talking Red, I'm a lot more comfortable with a veteran Dainius Zubrus centering the third line than throwing a not-quite-ready Josefson into the NHL fire.

Your Take

Even the end of the offseason has to be tense and exciting for New Jersey.  Now I want to know what you think. What do you think the Devils should do in the next two days to get under the cap?  What do you think the Devils will do in the next two days?  How do you feel about Corrente going to the AHL for another season?  Do you think he'll be back shortly?  What's your reaction to the Tedenby and Josefson demotions?  Do you think the Devils will keep Urbom and Taormina, or will they decide one over the other shortly?  As always, please leave your answers and other relevant thoughts about these topics in the comments. Thanks to Tom for the FanShot earlier, and thank you for reading.