The 2018-19 campaign is quickly becoming another lost year in the history of the New Jersey Devils; while there’s still a good amount of hockey left to play (4 months roughly) the chances of playoff hockey returning to New Jersey for a second season in a row are low. 95 points is a good estimate of what it takes to make the playoffs, so the Devils would need to approximately go 32-16-5 in the remaining 53 games to even have a chance to qualify. You can tinker with the numbers a bit, but still, the bottom line is they would need to win a lot more often than they’d lose and a lot more often then they have been winning.
While last season was a nice treat to be back in the playoffs, realistically the Devils are still in a rebuild; sure it’s not the doldrums and the worst years of one, but the Devils still need to draft and develop some more NHL quality talent before they can truly be a postseason force again. That being said, there are some players on the current roster, who won’t be there either due to age or talent that are also hurting the current roster; if the Devils want a true inventory of what they have/need, then they would be best be served by getting these players off of the roster.
Ben Lovejoy: Most Devils fans were not happy with this signing when it happened, and the first season of his contract showed why, as he was miscast on the top pairing and was routinely skated around by opposing players. When Lovejoy was put into a reduced role mentoring Will Butcher last season, it seemed a mutually beneficial role that put him in a position where he wouldn’t be overwhelmed. He still had some rough moments last season, but overall he was a net positive.
In 2018-19, Lovejoy is back to getting hemmed in more often than not, taking dumb penalties and yes, even causing an own goal, but this time without the excuse of being on the top pairing. The fact of the matter is he just doesn’t fit the identity that the Devils are shooting for and that hurts the team. His past two atrocious games should be enough to see Steven Santini or Mirco Mueller come in for him, yet somehow I feel as though The Reverend will be in tomorrow’s lineup.
Want to help the future? Scratch him as the 7th D until his contract is up and don’t re-sign him.
One of Stefan Noesen and Drew Stafford: The reason I say one of is because you need a 13th forward on your roster in case of injuries, and the role is better played by a veteran than a younger player that is trying to be developed for a larger role. I feel that the Devils tried to do this, as Stafford did not sign a contract until after Jesper Bratt was injured just before the season opener.
This isn’t even a major cut, it’s more of a “free up a spot for a more deserving player” type of move and should honestly be done as soon as Joey Anderson is healthy. Noesen has looked awful this season and Stafford is what he is at this point in his career; I’d keep Noesen just due to age and the fact that maybe somehow he can rediscover the ability he had last season. Again, it’s not likely to happen during this season, but should be the norm entering 2019-20.
Andy Greene: This one absolutely kills me to write, because Greene has been a good soldier for a long time, and made a career out of being a smart defensive hockey player. Those who have been watching have seen an obvious decline in his game, but before this season, it was assumed that a lesser role for the current captain could lead to him still being a steady, useful player.
That case has not been made this season; Greene originally started on the second pairing, but quickly resumed top pair duties when Mueller came back to Earth from a hot start. He’s been made to look like a pylon a number of times this season, and is another defender responsible for an own goal (along with more than a few terrible outlet pass attempts that got picked off) showing that his decision making is becoming suspect along with his speed.
I don’t know if anyone would take Greene in a shake-up trade, but with salary retention, he might still be useful in a lesser role. The higher likelihood is that he plays out the season and then Ray Shero faces the tough decision of whether to buy him out, or to let him play the final season of his contract. If Ty Smith is ready, I think Greene’s time in New Jersey (and possibly the NHL) will be over.
Cory Schneider: This one would have pained me to write in the past, but with the sharp decline in Schneider’s play, the Devils need a goaltender who can actually stop a puck. Keith Kinkaid has not proven to be the long-term answer either, but at least he still can keep Jersey’s team in a game. Schneider has gone from being a goalie who can steal a game to a goalie who can’t keep routine shots out of the net.
I don’t know what the solution is for Schneider either, as waiving him and sending him to the AHL (I don’t think anyone would claim him at full price) doesn’t do anyone any favors; while the team faces no current cap issues, the savings by sending him down is negligible. Buying him out creates a lot of dead cap for a good while and could impact the budget for a year when the team is ready to compete. Again, I can't say I have a solution here, but keeping Cory on the roster is hurting a lot more than it’s helping.
Marcus Johansson*: Johansson gets the asterisk next to his name because if he keeps up his current play and continues to show chemistry with Jesper Bratt, it would be wise to keep him around, provided he does not request too high of a raise from his current contract. At his best, he is a legitimate top-6 forward (on a team sorely lacking them) and he does possess some good play-making ability. If he at any point reverts to early-season Johansson and Bratt is separated from him, then maybe send him packing at the trade deadline to improve the team; additionally, if he’s not in the long-term plans, this should be done anyway so that the Devils can gain some building assets for him.
I know some of these may be controversial; some of them you may even flat out disagree with. You may also have some other names that you find to be dead weight that needs to go. What are your thoughts on the current Devils roster? Who should be cut and who should be retained? Are we still truly rebuilding or do you believe the team to be beyond that point? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!