I initially thought this was a no brainer, but now have reason to believe otherwise. I speculated the Devil's second line would include Patrik Elias and Nicklas Bergfors at the wings and Brian Rolston giving center another shot. Jacques Lemaire stated in an interview with Tom Gulitti that he felt Rolston played best at wing, but was unclear whether or not he'll try him at center. With the long history Lemaire and Rolston have, I won't question Lemaire's input on him.
If that's the case, I'm assuming the second line will involve Patrik Elias, Brian Rolston, Nicklas Bergfors, and Player X. Elias, Bergfors, and Rolston are all deserving of second line duties, but all are wings, posing a problem. This is where Player X comes in as the second line's undetermined center. Whether Player X is already on the team, in the system, or acquired by other means, his occupying center takes a top 6 spot away from 1 of 3 deserving players, most likely Nicklas Bergfors.
I don't recall Patrik Elias and Brian Rolston playing wings on the same line, but with Rolston's speed, shot, and Elias' creative playmaking skills, it could be a sufficient, productive match and the closest guarantee to having 2 scoring lines. However, not only are both players aging and could be susceptible to injury, I think this instance deprives Bergfors of his first legitimate opportunity to prove his worth. Last year, Bergfors had 22 goals, 14 on the power play, and 51 points in Lowell. Hockeysfuture.com describes him as a well rounded player, good in both ends of the ice that needs to play on a line with players possessing the same offensive mindset. Add the fact his development has been patiently and perfectly monitored, him playing with Elias and Rolston would be perfect for his development and complete a solid second line.
Bergfors made the team 2 years ago, returned to Lowell after 1 game due to injury, and was cut at last year's training camp. Excuses were his injuries and Brian Gionta's role kept Bergfors in the minors, since Lamoriello said if he made the team, he would play on the top 2 lines. Playing on the 3rd line could stint Bergfors' potential and prevent him from playing his natural right wing position, which is occupied by David Clarkson. He's shown he's ready to become a Devils regular, but needs to be used appropriately, which is a plus for having Lemaire as head coach, who likes and knows how to play the kids properly.
For the benefit of Bergfors, he should play on the second line with Elias and Player X if Rolston plays wing. Putting Rolston on a third line that'll likely consist of David Clarkson and Rod Pelley could work in Rolston's favor since he played left wing in Minnesota. This could also give the Devils a third scoring line if Rolston plays with Clarkson, whose offensive game is steadily improving. This distributes the Devil's offensive assets throughout their lines rather than bunching them on the top 2, enabling them to throw 3 adversarial squads at their opponents. The only reason I don't see Rolston play no lower than a top 6 forward goes back to Lemaire, who I'm sure will look to get as much out of Rolston, while giving him the biggest possible role, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
If it comes down to it, speculating the identity of the mysterious Player X must begin. On the team, I can only think of Danius Zubrus, who I'm sure most of us don't want anywhere near the top 6 after he was blamed for repressing the true offensive capability of Elias and Gionta with his offensive shortcomings. Another thought I had is giving Bergfors a shot at center as a last resort to keep him in the top 6 at the start of the season. Although he's a wing, if it works out, along with his potential power play capabilities, Bergfors could develop into an offensive asset, reliable to play center or wing when needed.
The Devil's prospect pool for centers is scarce and underdeveloped. Should one center the second line, it'd be a stretch and untraditional of the process Devils prospects go through to make the big team. One name that has been mentioned, even by Lemaire in his Gulitti interview is Patrice Cormier, last year's second round pick. Cormier's been lauded for his potential and deemed a dark horse by some speculators, even though he's only 19. Cormier has no NHL experience and would skip the stint in the minors that most prospects do if he became a Devils regular. I think Cormier can be an effective player in the future, which is why I wouldn't want to rush his development.
My dark horse is 22-year old Michael Swift, who had 12 goals, 27 points, 50 penalty minutes, and was a plus 2 in 52 games in his first year in Lowell, respectable stats considering the quality of his team. Signed in 2008, Swift's AHL debut followed an impressive, escalated OHL career, where he totaled 111 goals, 283 points, and 304 penalty minutes in 276 games. Hockeysfuture.com describes Swift as a speedy undersized player with multiple assets including shooting accuracy, special team potency, and a gritty upside. It'd be understandable if he played another year in Lowell, but if the Devils turned to the kids for a No. 2 center, Swift would be my pick.
As far as splashes go, Lou's unpredictable, making them when least expected and standing pat when expected to take action. In July, Lou stated in the Star Ledger he would assess the team during training camp and make any changes he feels are necessary. Actions are stronger than words, but I guess you can say Lamoriello implied he would make an outside acquisition if he had to. I would like to see the trade route utilized because it enables addition and subtraction to occur simultaneously. Many Devils fans imagined the likes of Patrick Marleau, Brad Richards, or Marc Savard in Devils jerseys, all of which would be exceptional acquirements, but the odds against are overwhelming. Odds are Lou would make one of his modest deals, looking appropriate on paper, whose quality won't be determined until the season commences.
Should Lou turn to the free agent market, which I can't recall him doing at this time of year, because the pickings are usually scarce, one exception could be Mike Comrie, whose play has been of moderate to low quality in recent years, but is a proven reliable contributor. Comrie needs to be on a stable team with a solid cast of players, which he doesn't have to be based around, but can help get the job done. To sum it up, I think Comrie prospers in a winning environment, where he can be effective if he embraces an important role, alongside with players he can maintain mutual productivity with. As far as signings go, Lou is infamous for his under the radar signings of no-name players that crack the lineup and establish their name in the NHL with the Devils. My concern is adding another free agent to the current roster gives the Devils 14-15 forwards, a situation, where a potential rookie or 2 may be sacrificed to cut the forward numbers to the appropriate roster number, in addition to how the Devil's available cap space would be affected by signing an unrestricted free agent.