After one of the most disappointing endings in the playoffs in recent history for the New Jersey Devils, fans may have something or someone to look forward to. The Devils’ website had headlines thanking the fans for the enormous support that was shown this regular season and especially in the playoffs. One thing is for sure though, if the Devils make a big move on the free agent market, attendance will skyrocket (because it can’t get any worse).
The Devils have always made commitments to players who fit the system. This being said, it seems they’ve gone overboard with the money that’s been thrown around recently to “system” players. Let’s take a look at some numbers. Elias is locked up till 2013 at $6 million per, Devil fans have to be happy about that. Then we move to our second highest paid player at Brian Rolston? Rolston recently signed for 4 years at $5 million per. That is a little much if you ask me. He’s good and has a slap shot second to none, but players like Kovalev and Saku Koivu are getting paid less. Who would you rather have on the ice? Dainius Zubrus is getting paid $3.4 million per, till 2013. Zubrus is not that young anymore and only improved 2 total points from last year, ending this year with 15g and 25 a for a total of 40 points. Maxim Afinogenov got paid $3.5 million last year, and Clarkson ended this year with 32 points, his share of the pot is $800k. Zubrus gets paid more than Langenbrunner, that’s a shame.
The Devils are heading into this offseason with 10 unrestricted free agents and 2 restricted free agents. You would think that after another quick exit out of the playoffs, Lou should make a move on the market this summer. Gionta’s contract is up, and he’ll likely be signed to a multi-year deal at somewhere around $4 million per. The Devils have no choice, what would happen to the millions of Gionta jerseys floating around Ebay. You can’t give that jersey away. Plus he looked good in the playoffs this year. Madden’s contract is up and he’ll probably be resigned as well, although there have been whispers of him leaving. Zajac will probably resign with a multi-year deal somewhere in the realm of $2 million. Oduya and Greene are also up this year. Both should be kept and Greene should be signed to a multi-year deal. Why this guy didn’t play all season is beyond me. The Devils are left with 2 openings at Center, 1 at D, 1 LW, and 1 RW. (Holik, Shanahan, Rupp, Havelid, and Leblond) Hello free agents!!
The Devils will have close to $17 million to play with this offseason. Taking away assumed signings for Gionta, Madden?, Zajac, Greene, Oduya, and Clemmensen, it brings in down in the $4-8 million dollar category. That’s not a bad start. What Lou will do with this money is another question. I’m no insider to say the least, but I do know people in the organization. There has been talk for a while now about bringing in a big name. The owners want it to happen, and Devil fans need a reason go back to The Rock after what happened in the dreaded Game 7. I’ll throw out a few names in no particular order that seem somewhat realistic.
1) Richard Zednik
2) Maxim Afinogenov
3) Dmitri Kalinin
4) Petr Sykora
5) Mike Cammalleri