The Devils finished out the first week of free agency by inking three more players to contracts: forward Jim O’Brien, defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani and goalie Yann Danis. The three players each bring different dimensions to the Devils’ depth chart and can contribute to the club if given the opportunity.
O’Brien comes to the Devils after splitting last season with the KHL’s Novokuznetsk Metallurg and the AHL’s Hershey Bears. The 26 year-old, 6-foot 2-inch, 200 pound forward had 10 goals, 19 assists and 29 points with 26 penalty minutes in 32 games for Hershey, according to the Devils website. The native of Maplewood, Minnesota has NHL experience with the Ottawa Senators, of whom he was the 29th overall pick in 2007’s Entry Draft. He is another graduate of the United States Development Program to join the Devils, having played there in 2004-05 and 2005-06. He has represented the United States on the international stage, winning a gold medal at the 2005 Under-18 World Junior Championships and silver in 2007 in the same tournament. He also played two years with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League and won the 2007 WCHA championship at the University of Minnesota after joining the Golden Gophers. His professional hockey career started with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL, where he won the 2011 Calder Cup. He would go on to play 63 games with Ottawa scoring 8 goals, 4 assists for 12 points and 14 penalty minutes. One of those goals came against the Devils on the final day of the 2011-12 regular season, in a game the Devils would go on to win as they were about to embark on their memorable playoff run. He was signed to a one year, two way contract worth $575,000 (at the NHL level) according to the press release on the Devils site.
Gragnani comes to the Devils from Bern of the Swiss League where he had 8 goals, 29 assists for 37 assists last season, leading the league in scoring for defensemen. The year prior was spent with Lev Praha of the KHL and he has NHL experience with Carolina (2012-13) and Buffalo and Vancouver (2011-12). In 2010-11, the native of Montreal was awarded the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s best defenseman while playing in the Sabres’ organization with the Rochester Americans. He also played in the AHL with the Portland Pirates and Charlotte Checkers. His NHL totals are: 3 goals, 15 assists for 18 points and 34 penalty minutes in 74 games. The 28 year-old has international experience, winning a silver medal with Canada at the 2005 Under-18 World Junior Championships, as well as playing for Canada at the 2011 World Championships. He played junior hockey with the QMJHL’s Prince Edward Island Rocket. He signed a one year, two way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level.
Danis returns for his second stint with the Devils, having played for the team in 2009-10 (backing up Marty Brodeur, he went 3-2-1 in 12 games and had a 2.06 goals against average). He spent last season with the Norfolk Admirals and Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL, leading Hartford to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 7-7 record and a 2.37 goals against average. In 2013-14, he played for the Adirondack Phantoms in the Flyers organization in 2013-14 and spent the two years before that with the Edmonton Oilers’s affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons. With Oklahoma City, he won the 2012 Baz Bastien Memorial Trophy as the AHL’s top goalie. He spent 2010-11 with Amur Khabarovsk of the KHL. He also spent time with the Islanders organization (2008-09) and five years with the Montreal organization (2003-04 to 2007-08). He played four years at Brown University and was named a NCAA East First All-American in his senior year and ECAC First All-Star Team. He was also named ECAC Goaltender and Player of the Year that season. He made the Second All-Star Team for the ECAC after his sophomore and junior seasons as well. The 34 year-old native of Lafontaine, Quebec has played 53 NHL contests, going 17-21-4 with a 2.75 goals against average and three shutouts, according to the Devils’ press release. With the Devils’ NHL goaltending tandem almost set, he will likely be playing for Albany. In his AHL career, which encompasses 278 games, he has a 140-99-26 record with a 2.62 goals against average and posting 14 shutouts. He was signed to a one year, two way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level.
While not huge signings at first glance, these three pickups could work well for the Devils. Adding to the depth of the club is always a good thing, giving a team a good chance to compete when injuries hit, or to make trades to further fill gaps in the lineup. The Devils are incredibly deep on the blueline and in the goal crease, so this gives them a lot of room to work with.