I hope everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day yesterday – as well as a happy Canada Day back on July 1 if you are up north.
Some little tidbits to get to that may have slipped through the cracks the last week or so.
First, Will Butcher was named to the 2017-18 NHL All-Rookie Team. The Devils blueliner had five goals and 39 assists for 44 points in his rookie campaign. He finished ninth in Calder Trophy voting but did make the cut for the first team All-Rookie team.
Butcher was signed as a college free agent last summer after choosing not to sign with the Colorado Avalanche. The Denver University product put up three power play goals of his five lamp lighters and was a plus-1 to go with eight penalty minutes.
Now, the development of Will Butcher leads me directly to the second part of this post. The Devils loss of a certain free agent. Jacob MacDonald, who was an AHL mid-season All-Star last year representing Binghamton declined to re-sign with the Devils organization and moved to the Florida Panthers.
As Chris Ryan of The Star Ledger mentioned in a tweet to a fan when asked why the Devils did not keep MacDonald, it was basically that MacDonald’s path to the NHL was blocked by Butcher. Ryan said in the tweet that MacDonald is going to get the NHL “as an offensive defenseman and someone who’s going to run the power play. When he looks at the Devils’ depth chart and sees Will Butcher, that path is much tougher in NJ.”
Obviously, this is not too much of a hit to the Devils. MacDonald, for all of the buzz that has surrounded him, has not yet played an NHL game and is 25-years-old. Butcher is the much better, younger option there.
One other free agent that the Devils let walk was Brian Gibbons. Gibbons came in as somewhat of a stop gap last season, but performed over his head. He was given a one-year, $1 million deal with the Anaheim Ducks.
There has been a segment of the Devils’ fanbase that has been a little bit worried due to a lack of deals made by New Jersey this offseason. There are two main things to keep in perspective here. One, it is only July 5. Training camp does not even begin for about two and a half months. Two, there just were not that many good free agents for what the Devils need out there. Would landing John Tavares have been a good move? You bet, but he was not talking to divisional rivals largely, it seems, out of respect to the Islanders (keep in mind that that is just merely speculation on my part there). Would John Carlson have been a great signing? Of course, but he never even made it to free agency, with Washington locking him up almost as soon as they finished their Stanley Cup parade. Would Calvin de Haan have been at least a good consolation prize? Yes, but he chose Carolina for more term and money than it seems the Devils would have been willing to commit to the oft-injured d-man (again, speculation here).
The main point is just to relax. Ray Shero is no dummy. He has a plan and he is sticking to it. The Devils are not just spending to spend. Free agency is a very dicey way to build a team. The shrewd GMs do it through the Draft and trades. Remember, it was a summer trade that got us the reigning NHL MVP.
Plus, you have the youngsters like Joey Anderson and Michael McLeod, amongst others, who will be looking to make a push this camp. Even 2018 first rounder Ty Smith could make a big impact in camp and make the opening night roster. You just never know.
Ray will get the job done in making this team better for next season. This much I am very sure of.