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What is Ray Shero’s Plan Heading Into Free Agency?

With the draft done, free agency is the next big stop for the NHL offseason. Some of the more desirable names are already gone or seem to be out of reach which begs the question: what is Ray Shero’s free agency plan?

2017 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

New Jersey Devils fans have been speculating since the team’s season ended as to what action would be taken for the team to be able to take another step forward next season: they need to re-sign Patrick Maroon, they need to draft well, they need to go out and spend on improving the defense.

The Maroon conundrum doesn’t appear as though it will be resolved before July 1st, and we also can’t give a grade on free agency since that hasn’t happened yet. The draft choice of Ty Smith at #17 was a blessing, as few if any thought he would still be available when New Jersey made their selection. Even still, Smith is probably not an NHLer this year, so all eyes will turn towards the draft.

One of the biggest problems with free agency right now is that names that we writers and fans wanted either seem unavailable or are quickly becoming unavailable. John Tavares’ list of teams that he is meeting with has become public knowledge; the Devils aren’t one of those teams. John Carlson (who some wanted and others didn’t) chose to re-sign with the Washington Capitals for 8 years and $64 million.

So what is Shero’s plan if he wants better results than last year?

I’d have to imagine the Devils look somewhere for help on left defense; if they planned on bringing John Moore back, that deal would probably have already gotten done. Interesting names such as Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey and even Mike Green remain, but they will definitely be garnering more attention from teams who need back end help with Carlson off the market. The Devils have had some trouble in recent years (more so than usual) in attracting premium free agents, and with so few guys that can actually be labeled “premium” it begs the question will the Devils be able to attract anyone of quality at all? When you considered the somewhat unexpected jump of the salary cap as well, it also makes it harder for smaller market teams such as ours to sign a player over a larger market team.

Additionally, is there any plan to improve the offense other than internally? The team tried Michael Grabner at the trade deadline and that was an absolute disaster, however with names like James Neal, Paul Stastny and to a lesser extent Rick Nash available, could the Devils look to make a big splash while others wait on the fate of Tavares? Any one of those players would be an upgrade on some of the previous wingers (especially Grabner) but at what term and price? Will these players want contracts that go beyond what Shero is comfortable with, and if so, does he let them find employment elsewhere?

What if Shero chooses to be quiet in free agency? Perhaps he goes the same route as last year, with a smaller NHL signing like he did with Brian Boyle, and filling out the holes in the AHL. Maybe he makes a trade or two as he has done in years prior, such as the Taylor Hall and Marcus Johansson deals. He could also look at some of the names being offered up around the league, like Jeff Skinner or Nino Niederreiter. The issue here is that these moves will cost some sort of asset, be it players, picks, or both, and the Devils don’t exactly have a wealth of prospects or picks to spare right now.

The one major thing that I’d like to address that prompted me to write this article is that the Devils’ camp is eerily quiet right now, and while that can be a good or bad thing, it’s a bit unsettling for a team that is looking to grow on last season’s playoff berth. I felt that the team had a known agenda going into the draft, and that they would be taking the BPA at a position where they currently need help; I can’t say I’m confident knowing what the plan is for UFA. Granted, fans, writers, and employees of the team alike don’t like to see guys get signed just for the sake of signing them, but at the same time for a proud franchise such as ours, it would be nice to know there is a plan to keep the team going forward on the right path.

I will say as well that if Shero does have a plan and it just hasn’t come to light, then kudos to him for being able to keep that information safe until Sunday. If his plan was to go out and throw money at Tavares and Carlson well...time to go get a new plan I guess.

What are your thoughts on the lack of noise surrounding Jersey’s Team as we inch closer to July 1st? Do you think Shero has a plan? Do you think his plan was to throw money at the big names that are gone or close to gone? Is defense or offense more of a priority that needs to be addressed? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!