In the annual overspending frenzy that is the first day of free agency in the NHL, the Devils were somewhat responsible with their signings.
Watching the Sportsnet feed of “Signing Season” on the NHL Network, the big joke was that the Devils came into the day with only seven players under contract. Of course, some of their own guys will be re-signing and they just made the huge splash in acquiring Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers earlier in the week.
The eighth player they got under contract was a good, sound signing. Ben Lovejoy from the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, who had a very good year for them last season, at 3 years, $2.666 million AAV is a an example of the good use of the team’s cap space.
Lovejoy is a solid defensive defenseman, who still has speed. He will be essentially a stopgap for the Devils, taking Adam Larsson’s spot while the younger guys like Steve Santini and Damon Severson mature. Plus, the Shero factor, as he played under him in Pittsburgh (in Lovejoy’s first go-around in the Steel City – he was traded to Anaheim during the 2012-13 season and eventually returned to Pittsburgh).
Then there is the playoff factor. In his 24 games with the Pens in their Cup season this year, he had two goals and four assists, six points. He was a plus-5 and had 45 hits and 37 blocked shots. The 6-foot, 1-inch, 206-pound, 32-year-old native of Concord, New Hampshire should be a good value for the Devils and work out okay.
The Devils also signed Vernon Fiddler from the Dallas Stars. (For those keeping score, that makes nine players under contract for the Devils.) Fiddler is a 5-foot, 11-inch, 205-pound center who is 36-years-old. His contract is said to be for 1 year, $1.25 million. He is a fourth line center that will give the Devils someone a bottom six forward.
In the two outside signings, the Devils got a little bit of depth, if not a little bit older (although it is fair to say that that is the point with Lovejoy, he is a guy who is going to bridge the gap between the current unit and the younger guys who will take some time to develop – as Ken Daneyko always points out, it takes a little bit longer for blueliners to develop in the NHL than forwards).
Overall, this has been a successful week so far for the Devils and there are still a few names out there. The team will likely try to secure the in-house contracts that they have to take care of first, but this was a good start.
Although any week when you can trade for Taylor Hall should be considered a successful one, that is for certain.