Eyes on the Enemy: New Jersey Devils

Notable players lost: Zach Parise (MIN)
Notable players obtained: Bobby Butler (OTT), Krystofer Barch (FLA)

Drafted: Stefan Matteau- 1st round, 29th overall

It has been that kind of offseason for the Eastern Conference champions. It is virtually impossible for a team to lose a 30 goal scorer and only acquire a pair of fringe NHL’ers in return, to expect any kind of return to glory. The Devils financial issues are well documented and was possibly the main factor that saw Devils captain Zach Parise, walk off to Minnesota with a 13 year, $98 million dollar contract in hand, in search of stability and long term success that he wasn’t going to get in New Jersey.

With Brodeur in his 40’s and nearing the end of his career, the Devils will soon be looking to add a new goaltender. One name Ranger fans should start to familiarize themselves with is Scott Wedgewood, the Devils 3rd round pick in 2010. Wedgewood, who just turned 20, will be competing for the starting goaltender job in Albany this fall.Wedgewood plays a remarkably similar game to Brodeur from his technique all the way down to his puck handling skills. Hockey’s Future labels him as the undisputed goaltender of the future for the Devils.

The Devils don’t have the same problems on the blueline that their counterparts in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia do, but with the departure of Zach Parise, the pressure to generate offense will fall squarely on the shoulders of Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk does have some talent to surround himself with such as Adam Henrique and Patrick Elias however those players are entering the last season of their contracts. The Devils aren’t going to let Henrique get away and will command a steep price, but Elias will be 37 and an UFA who could perhaps leave the Devils for a contender and one last chance at a Cup.

The Devils franchise as a whole is at a crossroads. The void left by Parise’s departure takes them out of the picture as a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future. Two big factors that will swing the Devils’ fortunes is the health of Brodeur and how much he has left in the tank but more importantly the financial health of the franchise that would cripple their chances to attain necessary free agents to stay competitive and avoid being solely draft dependent. It is important to note that the Devils only have 5 forwards that make more than a $1 million dollar salary. Some of those players who make under that threshold will be seeking raises very soon and it could be tough for the Devils to keep all of those players within their budget. It is imperative for the Devils ownership to secure their finances in order to become a serious contender again especially with the Rangers, Flyers and Penguins unlikely to fall off the map anytime soon.

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