For the New Jersey Devils, the 2014 offseason will be remembered long into the future. Whether it is remembered for helping to build a Stanley Cup contender (as is the hope) remains to be seen. What it will mainly be remembered for is the jettisoning of future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur and the complete restructuring of the goalie ranks, as well as some under-the-radar signings and a good draft.
Brodeur was rendered obsolete when the Devils signed unrestricted free agent goalie Scott Clemmensen from Florida. Clemmensen, a former Devil, had played well when Brodeur went down with an arm injury in 2008-09, but left the Devils for the Panthers, where he had a chance to become a number one. Unfortunately, when Florida reacquired Roberto Luongo at last year’s trading deadline, Clemmensen was pushed aside and made expendable. The Devils quickly snapped him up and he will now likely be Cory Schneider’s backup going into next season, unless another goalie in the system (such as Keith Kinkaid) were to step up in training camp.
Speaking of Cory Schneider, word broke just prior to the writing of this column that the man now considered the ace in New Jersey had signed a multi-year extension with the team, making him a Devil for a “long time.” As per club policy, no details on the contract were disclosed. This is a fantastic move for the Devils, as they shore up their netminders for the future with the departure of Brodeur. Schneider will, undoubtedly, have a lot on his shoulders next season, replacing a surefire Hall of Famer in the nets. But, with years of battling to be the number one both in New Jersey and Vancouver, nobody could be more prepared to finally have the responsibility all to himself.
Besides Clemmensen, the Devils two other main free agent signing moves this offseason were the acquisition of Mike Cammalleri from the Calgary Flames and Martin Havlat, who was a compliance buyout by the San Jose Sharks. Both should add a little more up front for the team. Cammalleri, especially, is a good pickup for a team that sometimes struggles offensively. One of the first questions asked of Cammalleri at his Q and A with the press, in fact, was how good he is in shootouts, relevant following the Devils’ historically bad year in the “skills competition.” The overall feeling is that Cammalleri can be a great offensive spark for the Devils, and mesh well with some of the goal scorers on the team such as Travis Zajac and Jaromir Jagr. Havlat is hoping to reinvigorate his career and hopes that playing with longtime friend and Czech national teammate Patrik Elias and other fellow Czech Jagr can do just that.
While the top line guys were being reconfigured and put together, the Devils resigned fourth line wonders, Stephen Gionta and Steve Bernier. These moves should allow the Devils to continue to have that powerful fourth line presence. While their linemate Ryan Carter remains a UFA for the time being, resigning two key components from their 2012 Stanley Cup Final run should allow them to continue to have some depth and strength up and down the lineup.
The Devils’ moves this offseason have been with two goals in mind: to strengthen their team offense and to help tie up the goaltending as they move into the future. Although the latter meant that the team lost a legend and a guy who has been the masked face of the Devils for the past two decades, it also has brought them a goalie in Cory Schneider that will (with luck) be the face of the franchise for the next ten to fifteen years or so. As the team heads into the 2014-15 season, they seem ready to regain their place as an elite team in the Metropolitan Division and the NHL. Here’s to hoping the Devils moves pay off and they can shake things up once the season begins.
Note: This week was a little bit shorter of a column than I wanted, but I have decided to split this week and next weeks’ so that I can talk about the Draft next week. One of the Devils picks (John Quenneville, taken in the 1st Round, 30th Overall) has a connection to early Devils history (he is a relative of original Devil and current Blackhawks coach, Joel Quenneville) that I would like to get into. Till then, have a great week and Let’s Go Devils!