To this point in the summer, the New Jersey Devils have laid out their plans and executed. The gameplan this summer is youth movement, and save for the Cory Murphy signing, that is exactly what's happened. The signing of Murphy gives the Devils 8 defensemen who could potentially play with the big club this season, and that's ignoring the fact that a strong training camp from Matt Corrente and/or Tyler Eckford can only increase that number. So working with the exact lineup of the Devils right now, here is what I would do in the GM's chair.
1. Re-Sign Brendan Shanahan to a 1-year contract.
I know there is a lot of interest in Shanahan, but as long as the price is not outrageous, the Devils need to do everything they can to bring Shanny back for one more season. He has been a solid addition to our group of forwards, provides solid veteran leadership, and would make a terrific role model for the young players who make the roster...he's also at the point in his career where all this will come at a reasonable price. I would set my limit at about $1.2 million, so if we can bring him back for one year at or below that price, I call this a no-brainer.
2. Can Rolston play center? If not, get one.
It was a short-lived experiment, but Rolston centering Elias and Gionta was a great line idea that was never given the proper time to pan out. Gionta is gone, but Nicklas Bergfors can slide into that right wing spot. Rolston has played center before, and has publicly called Jacques Lemaire the best coach he's ever had. The two have a great working relationship, and if the coaching staff can help Rolston take on a center role, we find ourselves with two quality scoring lines without having to spend any more money. Of course, Rolston has to be willing to take on this role...if he's not, the hole must be filled some other way. Nevertheless, the biggest hole on the Devils is at the center position right now. Which is semi-related to the next point...
3. Unload a defenseman or two...
I know that nobody is going to want Mike Mottau or Jay Leach, but they are clearly the weakest links on defense right now. Perhaps instead of praying to get someone of value in return, the Devils can further the draft movement by turning these spare parts into later round draft picks. I know many people don't see Mike Mottau as a spare part, but I do. He was reliable, but way too indicative of what the Devils defense has too much of: good enough, but not great defensemen. Maybe he can fetch a depth forward in return, but if not, I would trade both for draft picks. We're going to need those roster spots on defense to make room for the two or three defensive prospects that may be ready for primetime.
4. Let Jeff Frazee continue to develop.
The mere thought that Jeff Frazee could be backing up Martin Brodeur this season is ridiculous to me. He's had one good season, and will need at least one more before he should be considered for such a thing. With Yann Danis now in the fold, the Devils can and should give Frazee all the playing time he can handle in Lowell. Calling him up once in a while for a little trial-by-fire certainly won't hurt, but Frazee should spend most of the year gaining actual playing experience.
5. Ignore everyone around you.
I just don't get people. For the past two years, hoardes of Devils fans have been calling for a youth movement. "The Devils are too old, they're too slow, it's time for change." Well change is now here, and yet all I see around blogs are an endless barrage of comments berating Lou for "not doing anything," "running the team into the ground," etc. Am I the only one who has put two and two together here? This IS the youth movement you've all been calling for, get over yourselves and stop whining! We're better for playing it safe with our finances anyway; worst-case scenario, the cap doesn't go down like we thought it would, we spend the money on talent; best-case scenario, the cap does go down like we thought it would, we're sitting pretty while teams like Philadelphia desperately try to get under the cap...we pick up a quality player or two.
Thoughts? Agree or disagree? I'd love to hear it.