Taylor Hall is indeed a New Jersey Devil. That was a big trade and big news in this past week. What could be bigger? Oh, all thirty teams being able to sign unrestricted free agents today. At 12 PM EST, the Free Agency Frenzy will begin. Decisions can be made that will impact teams for the short term and quite possibly the long term as well. Ray Shero made a bold move on Thursday to get Hall; he will have to provide at least a couple more to fill out the roster for next season.
As I noted in the breakdown of the Hall trade, Adam Larsson was dealt for him, which leaves the Devils short on the blueline. Today, Ray Shero could, in theory, sign some defensemen. Whether they will be able to fill in Larsson’s spot in the lineup is questionable given who may be available. But if the mindset is that 2016-17 is just another season to compile assets and re-build the organization for future success, then the team may settle for someone (or someones) who can just take the minutes and not be abysmal. All the same, the team’s biggest positional need for the short term turned to defense as of Wednesday evening. Wingers (ideally, a right winger who can play some top six minutes in a pinch) and depth forwards are also areas of need to fill out the roster.
While I’ve done a primer ahead of free agency, I’ll summarize the current situation for the Devils. According to General Fanager:
- The Devils have approximately $27.58 million in cap space and $45.41 million committed to next season’s cap. They are currently $8.58 million below the salary cap floor.
- The Devils have six forwards, three defensemen, and two goalies signed for 2016-17. They will need, at a minimum, six more forwards and three more defensemen added to the NHL roster either through signings, call-ups of non-New Jersey roster players, or both. To that end, the Devils have thirty out of fifty contracts on their reserve list.
- The Unrestricted Free Agents (UFAs) from New Jersey are, in no particular order: Patrik Elias, Tuomo Ruutu, Stephen Gionta, Jiri Tlusty, Jordin Tootoo, Tyler Kennedy, Bobby Farnham, David Schlemko, and David Warsofsky. Only Elias is a safe bet on returning if he decides to play pro hockey at all. Who knows about the rest at this juncture.
- The Unqualified Restricted Free Agents will become UFAs. The three from New Jersey are Beau Bennett, Jon Merrill, and Devante Smith-Pelly. According to this conference call with Ray Shero that Andrew Gross reported on Wednesday at Fire & Ice, Shero is confident he’ll get deals done with those three.
- The Qualified RFAs will be back with New Jersey, it’s just a matter of when the deal gets done. Those players are Kyle Palmieri, Jacob Josefson, Reid Boucher, and Sergey Kalinin.
- The Non-New Jersey Roster FAs are: Reece Scarlett (qualified RFA), Raman Hrabarenka (unqualified RFA, is now a UFA), Mike Sislo (UFA), Marc-Andre Gragnani (UFA), Jim O’Brien (UFA), Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (UFA), Yann Danis (UFA), Brandon Burlon (UFA), and Dan Kelly (UFA). They may be back with the organization, either with a NHL contract or an AHL contract (meaning they can’t be called up). Who knows at this juncture.
Needless to say, Shero has a lot to do. Re-signing the four qualified RFAs will eat up a good chunk of that $8.58 million needed to reach the cap floor. I don’t see Merrill (currently out injured), Bennett (currently not injured...for now), and Smith-Pelly necessarily getting swooped up by another team today. They’ll add to the cause to reach the floor. Still, unless Shero is bringing a lot of those UFAs back, he’ll need to spend just to fill out the roster. We’ll see what he does starting at noon today.
As with previous years, this is your open post. Please use the comments in this post to discuss everything that's happening in free agency (signings! trades! exclamation marks!) throughout the league as well as the Devils. Usual rules apply (keep comments clean, on topic, respect each other, etc.). Please, please, please do not share unconfirmed rumors and "news" from false sources like fake Twitter accounts, Eklund's Hockeybuzz, "insiderr," a "rumor breaker," an incarcerated Robert, etc. There's going to be a lot going on, especially after noon. So there's no need to muddy the waters of actual news by getting people riled up about something that isn’t likely to happen from someone who claimed they heard somebody. I can’t go for that. No can do. So for the benefit of everyone, link to legit sources and don't make things up. Being right is more important than being first.
Again, please use the comments to discuss everything that's going on today. I will try to get posts up on what the Devils do as they happen today. And I will try to summarize what they do in the evening. That said, I’ll leave you with an appropriate song for the day: