It’s still not easy to believe that the NHL draft just took place earlier this month, and that we’re not already diving in to the 2020-21 regular season, but alas times are still strange. Our New Jersey Devils started the offseason well with the draft (even if there was at least one head-scratching moment), which was followed up by...a VERY quiet free agency period.
Oh sure, the Devils went from a Cory to a Corey after they bought out Schneider and added Crawford as a backup/1B to pair with MacKenzie Blackwood. However, with some name value available, and some salary cap space free, the Devils were relatively inactive in terms of signings. The good news is the team wasn’t entirely inactive, as they traded a late pick in the next draft for Ryan Murray, and swapped Joey Anderson to Toronto for Andreas Johnsson. However, with players still available on the market, the question remains: are the Devils done upgrading their roster? And if they are, should they be?
A look at the Devils current roster shows some gaps, as they only have ten forwards and five defenders listed along with their goaltending tandem. There are some players, however, that many would expect to be part of the roster (or at the least, battling for one of the available slots) that are not listed. Ty Smith, Kevin Bahl, and Reilly Walsh are all prospects that could make the jump to round out the back end for the team. Meanwhile up front, the team has (recently re-signed) Nick Merkley, Jesper Boqvist, Janne Kuokkanen, Nolan Foote and a few other prospects who could at least be penciled in for spots, if not being counted on to fill certain roles.
The Devils have been acquiring some of this young talent for years, even before the changing of the office guard last season. I personally feel the team is moving into a “sink or swim” period for a lot of these prospects and others such as Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian as well. The Devils haven’t been super busy because it’s time to see what, if anything, some of these kids have to contribute. I think the fact that some of these “bubble” players have gone overseas to start playing for leagues that have already restarted prior to the NHL season should give them a leg up as well. Hopefully, the extra games leads to productive NHL campaigns and full time roster spots for at least a couple of these guys.
Maybe the Devils make one more signing or two prior to the start of training camp, or maybe they offer some PTOs to veterans to see if the kids are ready. Perhaps they can still take advantage of a cap-strapped team later in the offseason. As of right now though, aside from re-signing remaining RFAs, the Devils appear done.
But Should They Be?
I know fans were hopeful heading into free agency due to the team’s cap situation, however I think perhaps there were some unrealistic expectations. With where the Devils are right now, the team isn’t an attractive free agency destination, unless someone just wants to get paid and doesn’t care about losing. I’m not saying the Devils are going to lose for certain this season, but the roster is clearly in transition, with the team trying to build something sustainable for the future.
For said future to happen, some of the youth that the team has invested in will have to blossom into legitimate contributors. Some players, like Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt, will have to take those next steps to become consistent offensive threats. It may not be a popular opinion, but I think the Devils should be done upgrading this offseason, aside from the above mentioned minor move/take advantage of a cap strapped team. The team needs to evaluate their current youth, while continuing to build so that the team doesn’t have a couple of strong seasons before bottoming out again. It’s taking a while, but a down period like this will hopefully lead to another two decade period of competitiveness and success.
Now I’d like to hear your thoughts on the Devils roster makeup and upgrades; how do you feel about the personnel going into the upcoming season? Do you think there’s still moves to be made? Are you happy with the changes/upgrades that have been made so far? What else do you see the Devils doing prior to 2020-21? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!