I know it’s still the middle of summer and thus the middle of the NHL offseason, but everything has gone dark around our New Jersey Devils. There’s very little news about anything coming out, including Damon Severson’s contract negotiations and how in the world GM Ray Shero plans on icing a better product on defense than the team did last season. Unless his “master plan” for 2017-18 is to be “Fallin’ for Dahlin” (current top ranked 2018 prospect Rasmus Dahlin for those who don’t know) the Devils need to make some moves still to be better than they were in 2016-17. While I think CJ has an interesting idea with the Devils not necessarily needing another d-man, if Father Time does catch up to Andy Greene, then they absolutely will. Let’s look at how the Devils can still improve the team right now with roughly a month to go before training camp:
1.) Get Severson Under Contract Now
I don’t think much more needs to be said here; I certainly think Severson is an important part of this team both now and going forward and we should be locking him up long-term right now. Even with his growing pains, he was still far and away the best defenseman for New Jersey last season, and unless by a miracle one of the next two below options happens to produce an NHL caliber defender, Sevs will be our #1 once again. Give the man a long-term deal and start getting him some help!
2.) Pray One of the Prospects Plays Their Way Onto the Team
The Devils will have a number of prospects at their training camp come September as all NHL teams always do. I would assume that if I were to poll my fellow Devils fans as to whether they want to see the same defense come back again or not (with Jon Merrill being swapped for Mirco Mueller), “not” would be the overwhelming winner. In terms of youngsters trying to crack the lineup, New Jersey has Michael Kapla (who I’m including as he only had a minor stint in the NHL last season), Yaroslav Dyblenko, and Yegor Rykov, who likely isn’t an option for this season. There are some other names, but none that are really at a point of readiness. If Kapla or Dyblenko can outplay someone in training camp, it would help even just a little in terms of improving this team.
3.) When In Doubt, Poach Again!
Option #2 may not be likely to happen, but Shero has shown his ability to aid the Devils by acquiring pieces from teams up against the cap; right now thanks to CapFriendly, we can see that applies to the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas Stars. Once long-term injured reserve kicks in, the Leafs will be fine, but Detroit will still be up against the cap with Andreas Athanasiou still without a contract and Dallas will be a player over the maximum number of 23 that a team is allowed to carry. Both teams also currently have more than seven defenders on their roster, with Detroit having nine! Shero could attempt to make a trade with either team for a player he desires, or he could wait until one or both are forced to waive a player to meet NHL roster requirements. The waiver claim is more of a crap shoot, as it could be an undesirable player, and also we could be beaten by another defensive starved team (Colorado) with higher waiver priority. If the price is right like it was for Marcus Johansson, and the player is an upgrade to what we have, I say poach again!
4.) DO NOT Play “Fallin’ for Dahlin”
I add this only because I don’t want to see the Devils plummeting in the standings at any point in the season, either purposefully or due to any other factor for two reasons. First, we’re going to have a number of young players on the team next season, and we want them to develop as much as possible, meaning at no point should we stop trying to win games. Secondly, last season’s draft lottery proved that being the last place team doesn’t matter, so while a few seasons ago finishing last place guaranteed you at worst the second overall pick, that’s no longer the case.
In closing, you will notice that I left off the idea of signing a free agent to even as much as a PTO as an option in this article; for those who haven’t looked at the list, the remaining names aren’t pretty. Shero hasn’t spent unnecessarily on free agents before, and now is definitely not the time to start. I also did not mention methods of improving the forwards, as Shero already made a couple of moves at forward this offseason, and I feel we are playing from a position of strength in regards to infusing youth up front.
How do you propose the Devils continue to improve their roster; are you a fan of Kapla or Dyblenko and hopeful that they make the NHL team? Is there a defender on Detroit or Dallas that you think we could acquire for a good price that could step in and make an impact right away? Is there a free agent that you think highly of that’s still out there? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!