For the Devils, the 2015 offseason has been a busy one, and we have not even approached the Draft yet. In the wake of the news of Ray Shero being signed as the team’s first new General Manager in 28 years, some other interesting happenings have occurred around the team.
On Monday, May 11, Tuomo Ruutu’s Team Finland took on Devils’ prospect Artur Gavrus and Belarus at the IIHF World Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic. Ruutu’s squad overcame the upstart Belarusians 3-2 in a shootout. Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators made 23 saves in the victory. Ruutu did not score a point in the game and has one assist in six games in the tournament. Finland and Russia are tied for second in Group B with 14 points, the US leads group with 15 points. Finland plays their final preliminary game against Russia tomorrow (May 12).
On the Belarusian side of things, Gavrus had a great chance to get his team up by two when he was denied by Rinne on a 5-on-3 man advantage. Yevgeni Kovyrshin had scored early in the third to break a scoreless tie. Finland would take the lead, 2-1, but Gavrus would strike again, setting up the game tying goal scored with 31 seconds left in the third period. After a scoreless overtime period, Jussi Jokinen scored in the shootout to give Finland the victory.
Belarus still has a chance to advance to the quarterfinals by earning one point in its game against Norway on Tuesday. That game is their last game in the preliminary round, so it is kind of a do or die situation for the team.
In other World Championship/Devils news, Jacob Josefson scored a goal as Sweden defeated France 4-2 on Monday. It was the opening goal of the game, giving Sweden a 1-0 lead. France scored two unanswered to take a 2-1 lead until Filip Forsberg of Nashville scored twice and Oliver Ekman-Larsson of Arizona (the World Championship tournament’s leading scorer) scored once to give Sweden the victory. The Swedes stand at second place in Group A and, in the quarterfinals, will meet the third place finishing team from Group B.
Back on the homefront, the Devils resigned their nominee for the Masterton Trophy, Jordin Tootoo. As per team policy, President Lou Lamoriello did not release the terms of the deal when it was announced on Saturday, May 9. The 32 year-old Tootoo, who led the Devils with 72 penalty minutes last year also potted ten goals and fifteen points. His goal tally was his best since 2007-08 (he had eleven goals that year as a member of the Predators). He played in 68 games after signing with New Jersey out of training camp. He would have become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
The Devils have a lot to do this offseason to get ready for 2015-16. Hopefully, the re-signing of a potential UFA who saw a career renaissance here with the Devils will be a step in the right section. Tootoo is a high energy guy who got the team going with his grit and speed on nights when they were not fully in the game. He also won over the fans with his toughness and skill. If he can bring that to the table this coming season, then the signing will be good move.
The Devils will probably be making few more moves to get younger and faster up front. Another goal scorer that can take some of the burden off of Mike Cammalleri can only help New Jersey in the long run. Time will tell just what new GM Ray Shero has up his sleeve.