Like most teams, the New Jersey Devils are gearing up for the new season. The NHL draft is done and the Devils came out of with a nice balance in my eyes. Three forwards, a couple of defencemen and a ‘tendie – you could say that we have basically drafted an entire line. One of the draftees has experience of playing in the KHL which will hopefully stand him in excellent stead as he looks, like the others, for the step in the big league: “The Show”.
Devils have also been busy with a trio of free agency signings. Arriving in Jersey are forward Kurtis Gabriel, and defencemen John Ramage and Eric Gryba. Of the three, Gryba is the most well known and experienced. Gryba has played in nearly 300 NHL games (regular season and play-offs) with Ottawa and Edmonton so will add some experience if called upon. All three have signed one-year deal but two-way contracts with Jersey which means they will be on the fringes of the main team but will probably start the new season in Binghamton where the Devils’ AHL affiliate is based. Saying that, it will be familiar surroundings for the afore-mentioned Gryba who had three and a half seasons there when they were the Senators AHL affiliate.
Looking at the main team, the biggest departure from last season’s team is defenceman John Moore. The man who had a habit of finding overtime winners has joined the Boston Bruins under free agency, bagging himself a five year deal with the Bruins and a nice little pay cheque. In my eyes, the Devils will miss the guy from the blue line but obviously there must be something in the water that stopped the Devils from tending an offer which might have kept the Illinois native in the red, white and the black. Instead he will be in the black and gold when the new season starts in two and half months time.
What the Devils have done is to re-sign new deals with forwards Stefan Noesen and Blake Coleman, and goaltender Eddie Lack. Lack is a good third string ‘tendie to have on the books, not mind blowingly awesome but dependable if we need to call on him should circumstances arise. Both Noesen and Coleman, who hail from the same town, had breakout seasons in last season’s much improved campaign for the Devils so to keep them is very good business indeed. Noesen has signed a new one year deal, Coleman a three year deal.
The roster as a whole looks stable and capable of making another good run and Devils fans will be hoping, it builds on the success that was last season after seasons of despair. My only concerns are the goaltending. Whilst Keith Kinkaid really established himself last year, is he going to be John Hynes’ number one choice next season or will he start as second fiddle to Cory Schneider? That said, Schneider has had a few injury troubles over the last few seasons – is he over them? Those are the doubts I have in my mind. Goaltending is oh so crucial when you’re building a team, and this is at all levels and all leagues not just the NHL.
Genuinely though, I’m excited for the new season ahead and seeing Taylor Hall continue to enthral us with his explosive play; he’s certainly become a bit of clutch player in the roster and deserved his Hart Trophy award. The dark horse in the roster is Swede Marcus Johansson for me, as when on point the former Washington Capitals winger can be a real game changer. It’s a shame that injuries disrupted him to just 32 games last season, but he was nearly a point every two games in that short season for the Landskrona native. Nico Hischier should continue to improve and show why he is so highly rated. Let’s see what happens.