Odd Man Out
Posted 2:04 PM ET | Comments 0
With Brendan Shanahan signing a 1-year $800,000 deal, of which he will receive $400,000 for playing the second half of the season, Shanahan has officially become a member of the team that drafted him over twenty years ago, the New Jersey Devils. Throughout the first half of the season, the Devils have had four solid lines, even when their lineup was plagued with injuries throughout November and December. Devils GM/President/CEO/Former head coach (2 times)/Water bottle cleaner/Zamboni Driver Lou Lamoriello said Shanahan was brought in to help boost the team's power play, which has had streaky roller coaster success this year. Both Sutter and Lamoriello expect Shanahan to become a full time player on the team, and despite his age (40), Shanahan insists he is in top shape, and said he has a "burning desire" to help the team out. As for Devils fans, it seems there is a 60/40 opinion on the signing, most fans liking it, but doubters, skeptics, and critics of the signing have had their say on forums, blogs, and articles.
With Shanahan joining the team, that gives us 13, and may I say 13 solid forwards. The fact that someone has to come out of the lineup to make room for Shanny is inevitable, and while it is a very tough choice to decide who should come out, many names have come up or been suggested.
The most common name, and the first name that popped up was winger/center Mike Rupp. While Rupp is not as offensively skilled as Shanahan, or most of the forwards, Rupp is a big, tough, physical forward, who provides a lot of grit and adds toughness into the lineup. Rupp sticks up for his teammates, is loyal and obedient, knows his place on the team, and will drop the gloves with anyone. Like I said, he is no 20, 30 goal scorer. In a good year, he'll put up 5-10 goals, 10, 15 points, but he is not on this team to score, rather to be a physical presence, something this team has not has a legit form of since the days of Jim McKenzie and Turner Stevenson. Despite Rupp's minimal role, just as many fans, if not most of the Devils fans (all 14 of us lol) don't want to see Mike Rupp out of the lineup, feeling he has an unsung, yet significant role on the team that is not fully appreciated on a nightly basis.
Another popular name that has been mentioned and suggested was David Clarkson. After a season and a half in the league and with the Devils, Clarkson has emerged as an agitator-type forward, who will also drop the gloves, maybe on a lesser basis than Rupp, and shows continuous progress on his offensive skills night after night. Clarkson has been a solid third, fourth line winger, who seems to work well with any combinations that he is put with. He has been serviceable on the power play, and is doing work with Rolston whenever the power play clicks. Two reasons why Clarkson is likely to be one of the lesser candidates to step out of the lineup are because he is one of Sutter's favorite players, and he has already established a solid role on the team, and does not have a significant downside to his game (aside his persistency to try and get one of his wraparound goals in).
While he is one of the more unlikely candidates to be replaced by Shanahan, Jay Pandolfo, who had a phenomenal year last year, and was rewarded for it this summer when he signed a three-year deal worth over $7 million with the Devils has particularly been mentioned by a lot of fans on forums and blogs. Despite his solid performance last year, Pandolfo looks like a mere shadow of himself from last season. Pandolfo is in the single digits for goals, assists, and points this year, and has an atrocious plus/minus -8 for the year. Pandolfo and his PIC John Madden have been the main blame as well for the team's awful start to the penalty kill this year, and as a result that many fans seem to be oblivious to, Sutter seems to be avoiding putting Madden and Pandolfo out on the PK, and Pandolfo in particular has seen significant reduction in his ice time numbers as of late. In my opinion, Pandolfo seems like the logical choice to take out of the lineup. He is not contributing, he is aging (34), and just looks lost out there, especially considering the fact that Sutter has recently separated him and Madden, and is starting to roll the Devils lines, rather than have a legit shut down line like the team has had for many years. The one thing Pandolfo has going for him is he is a longtime veteran of the team, and it would be a waste of salary to keep him from playing as well. Pandolfo may not even be movable considering the fact he has a full no-trade clause for the next three years as well.
Aside from kicking him out of the lineup, John Madden's name has been the hot topic of trade rumors as well. After having a stellar career year last year that earned him another Selke Trophy nomination, Madden is off to a horrifically slow start this year. He only has 4 goals and 12 points thus far, and combines with Pandolfo for minus -16 this year. Madden is in a contract year, and makes over $3 million this season. There could be a mutual compromise made that if Madden does get taken out of the lineup, it is not so that he could sit in the press box for the rest of the season's majority, rather he ends up getting shipped away in a deal that brings back some decent return. Madden has been a serviceable player and a fan favorite since his rookie debut in 99-00, but times change and this is a business, as it was mentioned in a Devils blog comment section on this site, and you have to do what's necessary for the better of the team. However like Pandolfo, the one thing 35-year old John Madden has going for him is he is another loyal, long time veteran of the team and may not be scratched just because of that. Whether or not he is dealt remains to be seen.
One name that has been mentioned is Brian Gionta. Gionta is on pace to have his best season since scoring 48 goals and leading the team with 89 points in 05-06. Out of the five mentioned players, I just can't see Gionta leaving the lineup for whatever reason. He has been playing great with Danius Zubrus and Patrik Elias, and really completes the chemistry on that potent first line (thus far) the Devils have. Like Madden, the only way I can see Gionta leaving the lineup is if he ends up getting traded come trade deadline time. Aside from that, I think it's safe to say he may be the most untouchable out of everyone on the team.
So with Shanahan coming, someone's leaving. Whether he is getting scratched, traded, or waived we've yet to see, and based on what has been said and heard, whoever Shanahan is replacing is probably one of the handful of players mentioned above.