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The 2023 New Jersey Devils Offseason Preview: Free Agency & NHL Draft

After a fantastic 2022-23 season, the expectations for the New Jersey Devils are more than just getting into the playoffs in 2023-24. The work to achieve that will continue in the 2023 offseason. This post previews the Summer’s main activities for the Devils: free agency & the NHL Draft.

San Jose Sharks v New Jersey Devils
Tom Fitzgerald has a lot to smile about the 2022-23 season. Now his work continues to maintain the quality for 2023-24
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Last Thursday, the New Jersey Devils were eliminated in the second round of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes. Much was to be learned from the team’s first playoff appearance since 2018. Much was understood from May. Either way, that was the unofficial start date of the 2023 offseason for General Manager Tom Fitzgerald and the New Jersey Devils.

The 2022-23 Devils season was absolutely sensational. They went from the outhouse to the penthouse of the league standings with a 49 point improvement. The 2022-23 Devils set franchise records for most wins in a season (52), points in a season (112), longest winning streak (13), road wins in a season (28), and more. Jack Hughes further established himself as The Big Deal by breaking Patrik Elias’ record of 96 points in a season with 99. Dougie Hamilton tied a franchise record set by a Rocky (Barry Beck) for most goals by a defenseman with 22. Dawson Mercer had the DAWG in him for an eight-game goal streak, one shy of tying Wayne Gretzky for longest goal streak by an under-21 player. Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Jesper Bratt broke the 30-goal mark. Those three plus Hamilton broke the 70-point mark. The team acquired Timo Meier without losing any regular player beyond the Swole Swede, Fabian Zetterlund. If that was not enough, the Devils won their first playoff series since 2012 with a 7-game series comeback win over Our Hated Rivals where Akira Schmid shut them out in Games 5 and 7. Head coach Lindy Ruff bossed the squad to a massive set of gains. Appropriately, Ruff is a finalist for the Jack Adams; Hischier is a finalist for the Selke; and Jack Hughes is a finalist for the Lady Byng and King Clancy. It was an wonderful campaign. One very few of the People Who Matter could dream of happening.

That was also then and this is now. The 2023-24 season will almost have to be different. Repeating all of this is going to be somewhere between incredibly unlikely and very unlikely. Yet, the expectations will be much higher. Many of the People Who Matter expected and hopes the 2022-23 Devils would play some meaningful games in March. Finishing second in the division and third in the league standings shattered that ceiling. That means the goal for next season’s team is, at a minimum, making the playoffs and going on a run. The work to achieve these now higher goals begins with this offseason. Tom Fitzgerald and his staff have a lot of decisions to make that will determine whether those goals will be met next season and in seasons beyond.

The real action will take place at the end of June. Even though the offseason has already begun, expect some time to pass before anything happens. Therefore, is your preview for the 2023 Devils offseason: The NHL Draft, restricted and unrestricted free agency, and everything else.

The Major Offseason Events So Far

The NHL is reverting back to their traditional July 1 date for Free Agency Frenzy, or the date when unrestricted free agents (UFAs) can sign contracts with other teams. They have also decided to have the draft in the middle of that week. Which is going to be right after the NHL Awards ceremony. Traditionally, the NHL will also announce the 2023-24 schedule around this time. Here are the dates of events already known.

  • Monday, June 26: NHL Awards in Nashville
  • Wednesday, June 28: 2023 NHL Draft - First Round
  • Thursday, June 29: 2023 NHL Draft - Second through Seventh Rounds
  • Saturday, July 1: Free Agent Frenzy

With UFAs being able to sign on July 1, qualifying offers for restricted free agents would have to be tendered before then. Per the CBA, teams would normally have the later between June 25 or the first Monday after the draft; but that first Monday is July 3, so I would think it is June 25 this year. I am sure the NHL will clarify this in the coming weeks. Either way, the End of June is going to be a busy time for everyone. This means any contract negotiations, trade discussions, draft planning, and such will happen in these coming weeks. Actual activity will likely happen around those events.

And, especially relevant to Fitzgerald, arbitration hearings will likely take place later in July.

The Devils’ Cap Situation & Pending Free Agents

Let me tell you about the Devils’ salary cap situation. According to CapFriendly, the Devils are set up for 2023-24 with the following details:

  • 27 standard player contracts are on the books. Maximum is 50.
  • $46.22 million in player contracts is committed to the salary cap for 2023-24.
  • Tom Fitzgerald’s buyouts of Cory Schneider ($2 million) and Janne Kuokkanen ($0.325 million) are still on the books. As is the $0.25 million recapture cap penalty for Ilya Kovalchuk. This yields a total dead cap hit of $2.575 million.
  • The Devils have no retained salaries. The Devils can still retain up to 3 salaries.
  • Due to bonuses paid out to Kevin Bahl (games played) and Dawson Mercer (goals, plus/minus) and the Devils finishing the season with no cap space (LTIR kept them compliant), the Devils will have $422,500 in overages committed to the cap. Or roughly $0.423 million.
  • With a projected cap ceiling of $83.5 million and these commitments, the Devils have $34,282,500 million (~$34.282 million) in cap space for 2023-24.

At first glance, it looks like the Devils can do a lot. $34.2 million in cap space is a lot of room on the surface. The problem is a lot of that money is going to go the Devils’ own free agents. Those free agents are:

Restricted Free Agents - New Jersey (8): Jesper Bratt, Timo Meier, Yegor Sharangovich, Michael McLeod, Jesper Boqvist, Nathan Bastian, Kevin Bahl, Mackenzie Blackwood

Restricted Free Agents - Utica (5): Reilly Walsh, Aarne Talvitie, Zack Hayes, Jeremy Groleau Zacharie Emond

Unrestricted Free Agents - New Jersey (6): Tomas Tatar, Miles Wood, Erik Haula, Damon Severson, Ryan Graves, Jonathan Bernier

Unrestricted Free Agents - Utica (5): Robbie Russo, Joseph Gambardella, Jayce Hawrlyuk, Mason Geertsen, Brian Pinho

The RFAs for New Jersey all have arbitration rights except for Bahl. Their qualifying offers alone - which is based on their most recent salary and not cap hit - would eat up a lot of that $34.2 million. Here is the math for those eight alone (I’m rounding up a bit for Boqvist and Bastian):

$10 million (Meier) + $5.45 million (Bratt) + $3.36 million (Blackwood) +$2.05 million (Sharangovich) + $1 million (McLeod) + $0.918 million (Boqvist) + $0.918 million (Bastian) + $0.7875 million (Bahl) = $24.4835 million.

Just to qualify, not even re-sign, these 8 RFAs (and not the Utica RFAs, they only count if they are called up) will eat up about 71% of the Devils’ projected cap space for 2023-24. This would leave just over $9.7 million to fill in other spots in the lineup. This is without giving out deserved raises to Bratt (face it, he’s more than a $5.5 million player), McLeod, Boqvist, Bastian, and Bahl. This is without Blackwood getting moved, or re-structuring what Meier will actually get. This is without even considering what the Devils should do with their unrestricted free agents. This is why that projected cap space number of over $34 million is not as much as it looks. Fitzgerald and his staff knows this. It is important that we understand this too. This is also why how much these players are re-signed, if re-signed at all, is important.

Of course, there are ways for Tom Fitzgerald to work around this and make some more space than just under $10 million to use this Summer. Blackwood is going to be a prime candidate to be traded away between Vitek Vanecek’s arrival last season and the emergence of Akira Schmid. Not that Blackwood will get a lot in return, but his subtraction may be the true addition. Bratt could be dealt or be given a big raise, but not a huge one as may have been predicted last Summer. Meier’s qualifying offer is hefty, but he may (and should) be retained for less. That stated, every contract on the books adds up. Again, McLeod, Bahl, Boqvist, and Bastian arguably deserve raises. Combined, they cost fewer than $4 million last season. That will not be the case when they get their new deals. Again, Fitzgerald and his staff will need to be careful with all of these contract negotiations. The 2022-23 Devils spent up to the cap and used LTIR to remain compliant. With the 2023-24 Devils now expected to contend, they need to continue to get as much value as they can out of every dollar. That starts with the RFAs.

As for the biggest two RFAs, Meier and Bratt, Fitzgerald spoke about both in Wednesday’s media availability. Through Amanda Stein, Fitzgerald stated he reached out to Meier’s agent about a long-term deal. Meier has been through this process before and that agent is Claude Lemieux. As a player, Lemieux sought to get paid quite well; and as an agent, I am certain he will seek to get his clients paid quite well. As for Bratt, Fitzgerald stated that Bratt knows what a long-term deal would look like and stated that he knows Bratt wants to be a Devil through this quote posted by James Nichols. In other words, Jack Hughes’ not-so-subtle quote about “Just sign the deal” was most likely about Jesper Bratt. Of course, just like the sport, this is a results-oriented business and we shall see if Fitzgerald gets the results he desires.

Going back to the cap number, that projected cap number of $34.2 million assumes those six UFA Devils are not returning. Even if you think the Devils will be fine with letting four to all six of them go, then that means the Devils have to fill in those spots. Given that he has not been able to play at all, I think Bernier’s time is up and so he will not return. Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec on entry level deals can provide great value; but they would need to succeed right away to make it work. In the case of Nemec, Fitzgerald noted on Wednesday via Ben Birnell that he hopes Nemec pushes for a spot in camp which means that one is not guaranteed for the developing defender. Alexander Holtz may have the talent, but will he be used in full? Fitzgerald, per Wednesday’s media availability, spoke well of Nolan Foote. These may be good players in time; but it is not clear that they can be immediate replacements for Tatar or Wood. Fitzgerald would need to keep some space for wingers for the middle and bottom six should they not bring any of them back. Ideally, forwards that can play the way Ruff wants the team to play.

What about Erik Haula? Haula wants to stay and Fitzgerald reiterated on Wednesday that he’d make the Zacha-for-Haula trade again. Of the six UFAs, I think Haula may be the safest to return.

Not that he will come back for a lot less money. Or any of the UFAs, really. In 2022-23 and ignoring Bernier, Tatar made $5.25 million, Wood made $3.2 million, Haula made $2.5 million, Severson made $5.1 million, and Graves made $4 million. I can see Tatar and Haula taking less as they are older players and options may be scarcer for them. Wood is a fourth liner, I cannot see a team offering him over $3.2 million unless they just want to blow a lot of money. But all three will get a lot more than minimal deals. Severson and Graves, both defensemen, under 30 years old and with plenty of experience, could command quite a bit of money on the open market this Summer. They could very well price themselves out of what Fitzgerald can afford given who he may need to replace and what he wants to improve.

That all said, the Devils have room to work with. Fitzgerald has done a very good job not painting himself into a corner with respect to the cap. It is possible to retain all of the RFAs, keep a couple of the pending UFAs, and still be able to sign a player or two. Will it be enough for a similar quality team in 2023-24? I hope so. Hope is not much of a plan, but that will be contingent about how the players perform to their new deals and who is brought in as well as who is shipped out.

I included the free agents with Utica because they do matter in a minor role. The free agents with Utica are those who had NHL contracts. They could be re-signed with AHL deals, which would take them off the 50-contract limit, but it also means they cannot be called up. One just happened. Timur Ibragimov, one of the players coming back in the Timo Meier deal, was re-signed to an AHL deal on Tuesday per Ben Birnell of the Utica Sentinal. Technically, that was the first move of the Devils’ 2023 offseason. It may not mean much but a spot is opened up for another NHL deal. There is often a lot of turnover at the AHL level due to a limit on veterans and veteran players looking elsewhere to find NHL contracts and perhaps a shot at the show. Do not be shocked if the Comets UFAs mostly walk and get replaced with other veterans. Do not be shocked if said veterans are signed to NHL deals as that is usually what it takes to get them.

Among the Comets for the future, the only standout among the free agents from a New Jersey perspective is Reilly Walsh. He is no longer the prospect that I thought he could be for the team’s future. The selections of Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec jumped him in the depth chart. The emergence of Topias Vilen was a great find for the team but also kept Walsh down in the depth chart. The growth of Bahl kept him in New Jersey and helped keep Walsh in Utica. While Shakir Mukhamadullin and Nikita Okhotiuk were traded, Daniil Misyul could be coming in along with Vilen next season. Most of all, when the Devils called up Comets for a brief time to be “black aces,” Nemec and Vilen were the only defensemen moved up. Not a then-productive Reilly Walsh. From a Devils perspective, it will be interesting to me to see if and how much the 24-year old is re-signed. Alas, this does happen with prospects. Sometimes, they just do not get to that next level for one reason or another.

Now, that is what the Devils have to contend with on their roster. Who is available?

A Quick Look at the 2023 Free Agents

Here is the list of pending unrestricted free agents at CapFriendly as of yesterday, May 18. This can change but not likely until July 1 gets closer. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s UFA group:

  • Big 30+ Names: Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly, Jason Zucker, Dmitry Orlov, James van Riemsdyk, Jordan Staal, Alex Killorn, Radko Gudas, Erik Gustafsson
  • Notable Names Under 30: Max Domi, Severson, Graves, Tyler Bertuzzi, Wood, Pius Suter, Alexander Kerfoot, J.T. Compher (who had 52 points last season, really), Ivan Barbashev, Michael Bunting, Pierre Engvall, Nick Ritchie
  • Will Get Interest but Have Issues: Jonathan Drouin, John Klingberg, Max Pacioretty, Sean Monahan, Matt Dumba, Shayne Gostisbehere (although his playoff may move him up to that first bullet), Kevin Shattenkirk, Tatar, Tyler Motte, Luke Schenn
  • Extra Veteran Presence (35+ Year Old Skaters): Patric Hornqvist, Milan Lucic, Kyle Okposo, Erik Johnson, Nick Foligno, Phil Kessel, Paul Stastny, David Krejci, Corey Perry, Justin Braun, Jack Johnson, Eric Staal, Derick Brassard
  • Goalies: Tristan Jarry, Semyon Varlamov, Frederik Andersen (playoffs are helping him) Jonathan Quick, Alex Nedeljkovic, Adin Hill (also helped by playoffs), Martin Jones, Antti Raanta, Joonas Korpisalo

This is not a full list but these are names to get familiar with as you will see plenty of them. Defensemen seem to be in a shorter supply quality-wise than forwards. This means Severson and Graves could stand to make quite a bit of money this Summer.

While the vast majority of these will be re-signed by their teams, the RFA list is loaded. Bratt and Meier lead the way along with Alex DeBrincat, Trevor Zegras, Vince Dunn with one of the quieter 60+ point seasons a defender can put up, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Troy Terry, K’Andre Miller, Matias Maccelli, Daniel Sprong, Cole Caufield, and Ross Colton. Yes, Ross Colton is a restricted free agent. Those who want the Robbinsville, New Jersey native in Newark will hope either Tampa Bay does not qualify him or trades him. Wait a year, he will hit UFA status in 2024 at the earliest.

Of course, Tom Fitzgerald cannot wait. If he decides he does not want to bring back his UFA players and/or his UFA players want to hit the market, then he will need replacements. The pool has quantity but not a ton of quality. Which is fine as the Devils already have plenty of talent for their big-minute skaters. Goaltending, well, Fitzgerald said he was fine with it on Wednesday but thoughts can change. Fitzgerald’s thoughts cannot be only about the player free agents. They may have to make some organizational decisions outside of their roster.

The Personnel: Lindy Ruff, Andrew Brunette & the Front Office

One of the biggest decisions of the offseason was effectively made on Wednesday afternoon. GM Tom Fitzgerald spoke to the press and stated that Lindy Ruff will return as head coach as confirmed by Ryan Novozinsky. The details have yet to be determined. It is not known how long a contract will be or how much. Still, the major news is that Ruff is returning.

Which makes a whole lot of sense and I think it s a great idea. Is Ruff perfect? No. Did he get everything right last season and in the playoffs? No. He got a whole lot right, though, and that was the important thing. He bossed the Devils to the greatest season-over-season improvement in an 82-game season in league history. The 2022-23 Devils set franchise records for wins and points earned in a season as they finished just behind Carolina for second in the Metropolitan Division and third in the league standings. The Devils were awesome in 5-on-5, they got gains in the net and on their power play, the team’s top player supports Ruff, and were a real threat until they ran into the angry swarm of bees known as the Canes in the postseason. Which followed a massive comeback in the first round over Our Hated Rivals despite Igor Shesterkin playing his best; a victory over the franchise’s biggest enemy as well as getting Gerard Gallant fired. If this is not enough for at least another season behind the bench, then I do not know what would be worth it. Achievements deserve rewards and Ruff is justifably being kept on. Clearly, the Devils are not the Panthers, who dumped Andrew Brunette despite similar achievements all because the team was swept by Tampa Bay in the second round. That is how Brunette came to New Jersey.

Of course, with Ruff returning, this means other NHL teams are interested in Brunette. He was hired as an Associate Coach. I think the understanding was that short of a miraculous turnaround, Brunette would take over for Ruff in 2023-24. A miraculous turnaround happened in 2022-23 so that is not happening. The league has not forgotten his work in Florida as an interim head coach. As such, he is gaining interest from other teams. On Wednesday night, Frank Seravalli noted that Brunette has been contacted by Anaheim already for their apparently extensive search for a head coach. Calgary, Our Hated Rivals, Columbus, and Washington all need new head coaches too. Expect more rumors about Brunette as those organizations perform their own searches.

The bench is not the only place where change could be happening. The Devils’ front office may have a new opening soon. Assistant GMs Dan MacKinnon (usually oversees prospects and Utica) and Kate Madigan as well as Director of Player Development Meghan Duggan have received interest from other teams. After Pittsburgh fired Ron Hextall as GM, Fenway Sports Group (Pittsburgh’s owners) have initiated a first round of interviews. MacKinnon, Madigan, and Duggan were all interviewed. Alex Chauvancy noted from Elliotte Friedman’s 32 Thoughts podcast that MacKinnon has made it through to the second round of interviews. The Penguins have, unfortunately, moved on from interviewing Peter Chiarelli and Marc Bergevin. They may end up hiring someone smart like MacKinnon or, worse for the division, Eric Tulsky. Even if MacKinnon does not get the job and knowing Madigan and Duggan did not make it to the second interview, the Devils need to understand that this will not be the only interest they will ever get. This is both a sign of how talented and valuable they are as it is a risk that they could leave the organization sooner rather than later.

The Devils are smart to let other organizations inquire about Brunette, MacKinnon, Madigan, and Duggan among others. This is more of the business part of the game and this is common in other businesses. It is generally a good look to let personnel explore other options and not get in the way of their own ambitions. Calgary did not look good blocking Brad Treliving from talking to Pittsburgh, for example. This will not help Calgary’s perception in the eyes of future candidates for their front office. An unforced error for an organization that seems to think they are higher than what they are. As Fitzgerald noted in his Wednesday availability, it is a sign of a good organization when others want personnel from it. This is good but any departures mean that they need to be replaced. On the coaching side, Sergei Brylin could move into Brunette’s spot unless they seek to go outside the organization for a power play/offense coach. For management, Duggan could be moved up, Madigan’s role could be re-assigned, or, again, someone else could come in as an assistant GM. The options are there.

There is no salary cap on coaches, scouts, trainers, or executives. If the Devils feel they could make an improvement there, then they should do so. It is not like Josh Harris and David Blitzer are short on cash. Beefing up these departments will be a lot cheaper than, say, Timo Meier’s next contract. But it is something in the background that Fitzgerald will contend with even if it does not make the headlines or get the clicks on social media like a player or a prospect would.

The 2023 NHL Draft & the Devils

Prospects are also cheap and the 2023 NHL Draft is something the Devils will have to prepare for. Given that Holtz, Luke Hughes, and Nemec are effectively on the cusp of making it to the NHL (and I think Luke Hughes is already in), prospects are not that much of a need for the Devils. Still, being able to find a Schmid (fifth rounder in 2018), a Sharangovich (the other fifth rounder of 2018), a Wood (fourth rounder of 2013) or, best case scenario, a Bratt (sixth rounder of 2016) is a big gain. Plus, developing prospects help strengthen the team’s depth if and when they are called upon. Moreover, a good prospect pool makes it easier to swing a trade without losing someone of significance on the roster. Just look to the Timo Meier trade for an example of that.

Furthermore, based on last season, the draft has been a place where deals go down. Alex DeBrincat became a Senator. Kevin Fiala became a King. The Devils acquired Vanecek. With this year’s draft taking place a few days before Free Agency Frenzy, we could see some big ones go down before UFA players hit the market and RFA player file for arbitration to force a contract to happen (if they can).

That all stated, the Devils will not have a lot to do at the draft. Their first rounder went to San Jose and it is a 26th overall selection this year. Their third rounder is owned by Pittsburgh as part of the John Marino trade. The Devils only have their second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh round picks. All of which will be late in their rounds due to the awesome season the Devils had. Even the second rounder is approaching “just take who your scouts like” territory. Still, if they can find some undervalued talent, then it would be a successful draft.

There are a couple of tendencies to look for this year’s draft. The Devils are not afraid of the Russian Factor and have drafted Russian-based prospects out of the KHL and their developmental league, the MHL. At least once since the 2016 draft when Yegor Zaitsev was a seventh round pick. The Devils are also consistent in taking a goaltender with at least one selected in every draft since 2015. Given how goaltenders a roll of the dice as a prospect outside of the best ones, do not be shocked if any of those late round picks goes to a goaltender.

In terms of needs in the pool, I would say center is the biggest positional need at a glance. On the team, the team is well set between Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier at the top, the likely retained McLeod as a bottom-six center, and multiple players who can step in the middle as needed such as Dawson Mercer, Jesper Boqvist, Yegor Sharangovich, and Curtis Lazar. The pool is much thinner. It is Samu Salminen, Artem Shlaine, Jaromir Pytlik and Talvitie down the middle. Unless one of those four glows up in a big way soon, the Devils could use some center prospects. That said, with how late the picks are for this year’s, finding any potential NHL talent from this year will be a success.

One last point about the draft. In Wednesday’s media availability, Fitzgerald stated as per Novozinsky, “We don’t have a first round pick...that doesn’t mean we won’t get one.” While this could be a sign that he could look to trade into the first round, I am taking it with a grain of salt. The 2023 NHL Draft is loaded with forward talent in the first round. I doubt teams are willing to give up a first unless Fitzgerald wants to give up something big. It will take a lot more than Blackwood. A sign and trade of Bratt or Meier may do it; but I think the plan for Fitzgerald is to keep both in New Jersey. As ever, we shall see.

Two Future Free Agents that Could Be Impacted by This Summer’s Moves

One of the challenges that all GMs must face is that their decisions today will impact what they can do tomorrow. They can and should look for ways to improve their situation for the future, but that is not always possible given who they sign and how much they sign for. For example, that Ondrej Palat contract with the $6 million cap hit has a no-movement clause. Moving on from that in 2024 is not a viable option - not that I would want Fitzgerald to move on from Palat already. Still, the contracts that Fitzgerald will give to Meier, Bratt, etc. as well as any free agents will determine how much room he has for 2024. Given how many free agents there are this year, he could have a lot more than the two players who will need new deals after next Summer. Those two are important players who could become more important very, very soon.

  • Dawson Mercer’s entry level contract will end and he will command a hefty extension. It is not common for players to enter the NHL before turning 20, put up double-digit goals and over 40 points in their rookie season, and then improve on that production to finish three short of 30 (!) and four points short of 60. Mercer will get paid real well and Fitzgerald needs to make sure he has the space for that one.
  • Schmid will also see his ELC end after 2023-24 and this next season will go a long way in determining how much of a raise he will get. I am confident that his 2022-23 season work and his series against Our Hated Rivals secured him a NHL career. How much he will make will be established in this coming season. Per Ben Birnell from Fitzgerald’s media session on Wednesday, the GM believes in Schmid’s future and noted how the Devils played better in front of him. Should that be true next season, then Schmid will get paid real soon.

What this means is that Fitzgerald needs to make whatever signings and transactions this Summer with somewhat of an eye on future seasons.

The Devils Needs in Summary

As a final point for this preview, allow me to highlight what the Devils need. Ruff is coming back, so what is next?

The main thing Fitzgerald needs to do is decide who to keep and who move on from his own free agents. This will allow Fitzgerald and his staff to budget what cap space they do have. This will also allow Fitzgerald to plan for any potential trades. They may have to wait until June, but he can at least identify who he is or is not willing to give up on. This includes how much he is willing to spend to keep those players.

The second thing Fitzgerald will need to do is identify from the free agent class who can fit in Ruff’s systems for any replacements. Ruff coming back makes this easier to do since his tactics are also returning. It is an up tempo, offensive system of hockey. The breakouts are on the strong side, the team looks to rush down opponents in transition, and get to the net often and over and over. Whoever is to be signed needs to be comfortable with this method of playing, regardless of where they are in the lineup.

The third thing is the draft itself. The first two needs will help drive this one. I am cool on the idea of trading back into the first round just because it does not happen much in the NHL. But if there is a draft to do it, then this may be one. To that end, the team’s draft prep work will be on display. I do think it is more likely some trades go down and what Fitzgerald does or does not do will provide any last minute changes for July 1.

And some on-the-fly decisions may have to be made depending on what happens with Brunette, the front office, and any other off-ice personnel. Again, it may not be the people we see on the ice, but they play a role in any successful organization.

What’s Next For Us

With this preview, we will begin focusing on the Devils offseason in a lot more detail. Every one of those pending Devils free agents save for Bernier will get a post. There will be posts in June about potential free agent and trade targets. In between all of that, we will cover prospects that are more on the niche side for the 2023 NHL Draft class given that the Devils’ earliest pick is a late second rounder. It will start on Sunday with a Jersey guy. And when something significant does happen, we will be there to opine about it. Hockey never stops at All About the Jersey.

Your Take

Now that you read a whole lot about the Summer’s upcoming activities including plenty of references to Fitzgerald’s media availability (the whole 34+ minute session is at the Devils’ official website), I want to know your take. How are you feeling about the Devils ahead of free agency and the draft? Are you confident in Tom Fitzgerald getting it right for the most part for another Summer? What do you think he needs to do and what he needs to avoid? Please leave your thoughts and other aspirations and worries about the Devils’ 2023 offseason in the comments. Thank you for reading.