For years, the offseason for Devils fans has generally represented a respite from the indignities of the season that preceded it. The team would finish up their season, typically in a last place or last-adjacent standings position, and the fans would welcome the break from the team and its misadventures. After the Devils finished up their best season in over a decade in 2022-23, though, the offseason hits a little bit different. Instead of relief that the season was done, there was much more regret. Namely, regret that there was no more Devils hockey to watch.
It’s been nice to return to a state of mind where you actively miss the Devils when they go away, but as the summer wears on, that feeling certainly makes the offseason seem that much longer. I’m counting the days until training camp begins and lamenting, rather than savoring, the fact that we have so many weeks left to go before seeing the team back on the ice. The Devils being an exciting team on the rise is not really something its fans have experienced since the early 90’s, and even with the benefit of hindsight that team didn’t seem quite as neatly set up as it is now.
Now, I would be lying if I said I never looked forward to training camp with anticipation in the past decade. “Hope springs eternal” and all of that. But most times we got our hopes up for the Devils, it was based on a hypothetical success of prospect “x” or acquisition “y.” Now, the Devils are coming off a pretty compelling proof-of-concept season, where they won 52 games, gathered 112 standings points, and played exciting hockey night after night. The breakout has now already happened, and it feels like this should be the start of something really good for the Devils.
Tom Fitzgerald and his staff have definitely helped foster these good vibes so far this offseason, with some very solid business locking down important pieces and even adding new potential difference-makers to the mix. The Devils now have Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Timo Meier locked in through 2027 at an extremely reasonable $32M cap hit. They added Tyler Toffolli for a player still finding his way and a mid-round pick. They have two of the game’s top defensive prospects, great offensive and defensive blue liners, and a strong cast of supporting role players to go along with it.
The team seems about pretty much set, save maybe a goalie transaction, now it just needs a sheet of ice to play on and opponents to play. They won’t be back on the ice, though, for another two months and the opponents won’t be there in a game that counts for close to another three. And with most of Fitzgerald’s business squared away here in mid-July there isn’t even much to speculate about in the meantime. Even prospect camp has come and gone so the next real hockey like substance we get won’t be till training camp or perhaps a rookie tournament just preceding it.
Don’t get me wrong, summer is fine the lack of Devils hockey just hits a bit harder this offseason. Anticipation and expectations are as high as they’ve been in a long time here in New Jersey. In fact, they’re so high that it makes me a little bit nervous. Two months of dead air between now and the season just means that much more time to ramp up those expectations. I’m already just about done with speculating and guessing what this team might be able to do. I just want to get to the park where we actually see what they can do. Here’s hoping the next two months go quick as I’m already tired of waiting.