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John Moore Proving to be a Savvy Pickup for New Jersey

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In the offseason, the Devils flew mostly under the radar in free agency and tried to improve their outlook by getting younger and finding/acquiring undervalued players. Thus far, John Moore has been a good example of the success on both of those fronts for New Jersey.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Devils' quiet maneuvering in the offseason has been well documented at this point. The Devils refrained from making any big splashes in free-agency, opting instead to clear out space, promote from within, and do some tinkering with low-cost contracts as the season approached. The only free agent acquisition of real substance they made during the July frenzy was signing John Moore to a three-year, $5M deal, with the rest of their moves either being RFA re-signings or minor-league-geared pickups. The move wasn't a shocker by any stretch, but it was a name that few fans had really considered heading into the start of free-agency.

The Moore pickup was met with mixed reviews among the Devils faithful at the time. The AAV dollars were pretty low, but some felt a three-year deal for a player who three organizations had already moved on from at age 24 had a definite element of risk to it. Moore has first-round pedigree, having gone 21st overall to Columbus in the 2009 NHL Draft, but the fact that he was already traded away from two teams and then not extended a qualifying offer from the rebuilding Coyotes served as a possible red flag. However, the underlying numbers for Moore seemed to indicate that he had a little more to offer than his teams might have realized (his 2013-2015 HERO chart is below). Like he did at the draft with Kyle Palmieri, Ray Shero made another bet on a younger player being possibly underutilized. Even if Moore couldn't step his game up to another level, he'd likely be a capable 3rd-pairing/depth defender at a defensible cap hit, so the risk was ultimately low.

J Moore 13-15 HERO

(via ownthepuck.blogspot.com)

We're now just over 30 games into John Moore's contract in New Jersey and, while the impact may not be as sizeable as Palmieri's, it looks like the signing of Moore was another solid wager by Shero and the Devils. Moore has served not just as a depth defenseman for New Jersey but as a second-pairing mainstay and arguably the Devils' third-best defenseman behind the Greene-Larsson top pairing. He has seen significant minutes in all situations and has looked mostly solid in a second-pairing role, gaining the trust of John Hynes and his staff during a stretch that has featured a lot of shuffling and uncertainty in the bottom four.

Moore's usage reflects some of the faith the coaching staff has put in him early on in his Devils career. He is currently third among Devils defensemen in even-strength minutes, power play minutes, and penalty kill minutes, showing that he can be a versatile contributor. He's been the least-sheltered non-Greene/Larsson blue liner by zone starts as well. Moore has chipped in well on offense at times, moving the puck and using some of his speed to keep plays moving or jump into the rush. He's by no means a dominant player and his possession numbers are currently middling, but he's been the type of stable presence on the blue line that New Jersey has needed with a lot of question marks in the bottom half of the lineup.

Moore's nine points in 30 games is good for second among Devils' defensemen, behind only the 10 from Damon Severson, who has about double the power play time. Production from the blue line overall has been disappointing from the Devils defense but it's hard to put much of that on Moore, who has put up the most shots from the blue line at even strength and is on pace for a career-best 25 points. The pairing of him and Damon Severson seems to be slowly gelling into a decent second unit that is able to chip in a little bit of offense from the back end (although the Devils could still use some more from them at even strength). Moore has also figured into some big, exciting plays for the Devils this season, including scoring the overtime winner in Montreal a couple weeks ago, and he has also done his part to up the team's dreamboat quotient for good measure.

While we're only a short way into John Moore's 3-year deal in New Jersey, it appears to be another good bit of maneuvering from GM Ray Shero. The ability to identify some young, undervalued players around the league and bring them to the organization has paid off early and will hopefully continue to pay off going forward. Moore may not be huge impact guy, but it seems the Devils are certainly better off having brought him in over the summer and his cap hit would be worth it even if he were playing third-pairing minutes. So even though Shero's offseason as a whole was quiet, as offseasons go, results continue to show it included some very savvy pickups and it has helped put the Devils in a much better position going forward.