Ilya Kovalchuk, Travis Zajac, Stefan Matteau, Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter, Krys Barch and Stephen Gionta.
These seven are the only non-free agent forwards on Jersey's roster (Henrique, Josefson and Loktionov are restricted). On top of that, their defensive core is a jumbled mess. Fayne, Tallinder, Larsson, Volchenkov and Harrold were switched in and out of the lineup all season. There's no way they are all content with their roles. No doubt this will be a busy off-season.
Here's what I think the Devils need to do (in order of importance):
1. Sign Elias. This is a no-brainer. He continues to be a consistent point-producer, he continues to fuel the penalty kill, and he wants to be back in Jersey. How could you go wrong?
2. Replace Parise. Yeah, the Devils looked fine without him for the first ten games of the season. But after a couple of injuries, it was clear that they were hanging on by a thread. Plain and simple, they need another consistent point-producer. And now they have the cap space to do it. Unfortunately the options are limited. Bobby Ryan would be a perfect fit (he even grew up in Jersey), but that seems like a long shot. This is easily the most difficult thing to accomplish on this list.
3. Figure out what the hell is going on defensively. The Devils have the pieces for a great defense, but they lack any sort of identity. Larsson can't continue to sit out. And isn't it about time that Greene gets a chance on the top power play unit? I'm not convinced that Zidlicky is important at all, and Urbom, Gelinas and maybe Merrill each deserve a shot on the roster. Some sort of plan needs to be enacted.
4. Sign Zubrus. Big Z's injury was overlooked last season because of Marty and Kovy. But the Devils began to plummet soon after he hurt his wrist. He plays DeBoer's system perfectly and he's an important veteran. Jersey needs him. Especially with such uncertainty.
5. Sign Loktionov. Kovy's Russian buddy was maybe the only reason I could stomach watching Devils games for a good portion of the season. He's not an established player yet, but he has huge potential and he already made the first step.
6. Draft a player ready for this year or next. This one shouldn't be hard. They will have an opportunity to draft a great player in the 9th spot. And I've heard a couple rumors about trading up. Nichuskin is a long shot, but that may even cross #2 off of this list.
So, if those 6 things happen, which definitely isn't impossible, the Devils will be in good shape.
Why didn't I put Clarkson on this list? I have a feeling that the price will be too high. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy. He's a great player to have on the ice, and his charity work in the surrounding area is great for the franchise. But I think 5 million a year is too high.