Say what you want about the season itself, but perhaps the true defining moment of the Devils' 2007-08 season came long before the first puck ever dropped. While July 1, 2007 was a day of glory for some teams, for the Devils it was a day of hopelessness. Despite past offseasons where the shrewdness of GM Lou Lamoriello typically paid dividends, in the summer of 2007 it produced a moment unprecedented in Devils history. The past couple of summers had seen big-time Devil players bolting for free agency or retiring, at a rate of one per offseason. This time, however, not only did the Devils lose Scott Gomez to the hated Rangers, but #1 defenseman Brian Rafalski left for home to play in Detroit. It was a disappointing summer, and subsequently, a disappointing season for the Devils.
With this coming free agency period comes a chance for redemption. With that said, here's a list of available free agents who could fit into our system and help out a team desperate for change.
Ryan Malone - It sounds as if the "hometown discount" was not what the Pittsburgh native was looking for, and so Malone will search for his market value. While topping someone else's offer has been regarded as blasphemy in the minds of the Devils' management, landing Malone would be huge for the franchise. He is an all-around character player with great offensive talent. He seems like that rare star talent which can thrive in an environment like New Jersey. I could be wrong but if I were Lou I'd offer the guy a contract.
Brian Rolston - I know, I know, the Devils don't exactly have the greatest success record--except for Claude Lemieux--of reacquiring former Devils. But Rolston is still a terrific talent and would provide some great veteran presence in the locker room.
Sean Avery - Come on...you'd laugh.
Kristian Huselius - The Devils need offense, Huselius brings offense. I'm not positive he fits in character-wise, but if New Jersey sounds enticing enough to him, why not give it a shot?
Brian Campbell - Of all the rumored destinations for Campbell, New Jersey has not been mentioned once. But I think Campbell can succeed here in the same way Brian Rafalski did. If the Devils could manage to land Campbell, you could forget entirely about Rafalski. Just lock Campbell up long enough so that we don't repeat our mistakes.
Brad Stuart - His name was flying around Devil trade rumors around deadline time, but in the end he went to Detroit. Now that it appears he will not return to Hockeytown, perhaps he would consider a destination where he'd automatically become the #1 defenseman.
If the Devils could land at least one of these players, I think that the 2008-09 season would start to look a little brighter. The bottom line is that the Devils need to start spending more money on players like these and less on checking forwards. Very rarely have the Devils brought in a star player who has really produced, except for Alex Mogilny--the first time around, not the second time.
It should be painfully clear to the Devils now that there is a difference between being cap-conscious and just not budging at all when it comes to how much to pay a player. It's one thing to pinpoint exactly what a player is worth--and perhaps there is no one better at that than Lou. But it's entirely another thing to pass on a player who can really bring you success because he asked for a tiny bit more than he was really worth.