Tom Gulitti, the former Devils beat writer for The Record who now works for NHL.com, recently broke down the unrestricted free agents that will be coming out of the Metropolitan Division on July 1.
He mentions how the New York Islanders will be the hardest hit; potentially losing right wing Kyle Okposo, center Frans Nielsen and left wing Matt Martin.
Of interest is that he has the Devils in the running for several of the big free agents from within their division: Nielsen, Washington’s Jason Chimera (left wing) and Pittsburgh’s Ben Lovejoy (defenseman) as well as possibly resigning their own free agent, defenseman David Schlemko.
While this is only within the division, these would be some good signings. Schlemko and Lovejoy would help shore up the defense corps, which is a place the Devils already have some bodies, but could use some more depth. Lovejoy is also a good locker room presence and would help some of the younger guys with his recent Stanley Cup playoff experience.
The real issue for the Devils is scoring goals, which is where someone like Nielsen would come in. He is able to play “in all situations and is versatile, being able to play in the middle or at wing on the top two lines” according to Gulitti. The Devils could use the 32-year-old center’s 20 goals from last year, as well.
Chimera is the really tough one on this list. As Gulitti points out, he is still one of the fastest skaters in the NHL at 37-years-old, but the fact remains that he is still 37-years-old. How much longer can he go is anyone’s guess, but would the Devils take a chance on him?
Although it is probably a pipe dream, I would like to see the Devils go for it and try for Okposo. They have some cap room, which is why Okposo is leaving the Isles (due to cap space) and he would make a fantastic addition to the top line. Plus, should Okposo want to stay within the New York Metropolitan area, where he, presumably has already set down roots, moving to the Devils might be a good option.
Gulitti does raise some concerns about how his scoring would hold up not playing with a real dynamic playmaker such as John Tavares, but should the Devils be able to make a deal, I think he would fit in quite nicely.
Again, this is just within the division; there will be plenty of other free agents available come July 1. Will the Devils make a splash or will they play it safe? For a team looking to get over that hump and into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2012, they might have to go a little bit bolder than they have in some recent years.