Devils score

Offseason Report: New Jersey Devils

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From July 16-Aug 16, we’ll be profiling all 30 NHL teams by recapping what they did this offseason and previewing their upcoming campaigns.

2011-12 season

48-28-6, 102 points, fourth in the Atlantic Division, sixth in the Eastern Conference. Beat Florida in the Conference quarterfinals (4-3), Philadelphia in the semis (4-1), New York Rangers in the finals (4-2).

Lost to Los Angeles in the Stanley Cup finals (4-2).

Additions

Krys Barch

Departures

Zach Parise, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Taormina, Eric Boulton

2012 Draft

First round, 29th overall — Stefan Matteau (US National Team Development Program)

Looking back

New Jersey’s offseason has been defined by what was lost rather than what was retained. In Parise, the Devils lost their captain and three-time leading scorer — a departure that overshadowed some key re-signings by Lou Lamoriello.

Getting Martin Brodeur back (after his brief flirtation with free agency) was huge. Last year’s playoff run proved the 40-year-old is still an elite netminder, and re-inking backup Johan Hedberg will go a long way in keeping Brodeur fresh throughout the 2012-13 season.

Lamoriello also re-upped with Bryce Salvador, the unlikely postseason scoring hero, on a tidy three-year, $9.5 million deal. Solid value for a veteran presence that’s durable and can play over 20 minutes a night. LouLam then signed RFA defenseman Mark Fayne to a two-year, $2.6 million deal, more good value for a guy that played in all 82 regular season (17 points) and 24 playoff games (three points) for the Devils last year.

Finally, there was the shrewd move of bringing back New Jersey’s dynamic fourth line from the Stanley Cup run — Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier and Ryan Carter. The line combined for 21 points in 24 playoff games with a plus-11 rating.

Looking forward

The Devils have over $14 million in cap space and are just above the floor, but the team’s uncertain financial future could prevent them from spending. There’s also the issue of a thinned-out free agent market that just saw its last semi-marquee name — Alex Semin — ink with Carolina on a whopping one-year, $7 million deal.

Lamoriello’s on record saying “you don’t replace a Zach Parise,” suggesting he’ll look within the organization to fill the offensive void. Calder nominee Adam Henrique will likely be tagged as one to claim a bigger role and expand on his point production, and the Devils will benefit from a full season of both Travis Zajac (just 15 regular season games last year) and Marek Zidlicky (22) in the lineup.

Have your say

Vote in our poll and let us know what you think of New Jersey’s 2012-13 outlook in the comments section.

Some tough decisions await the Blues

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Yet again, the St. Louis Blues failed to achieve their ultimate goal.

And boy does it hurt right now.

“We’re all hurting,” coach Ken Hitchcock said last night after getting eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference Final.

“You don’t want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block. In this game, in this era, in this cap world, you don’t know where you’re going to be a year from now.”

Indeed, GM Doug Armstrong has some tough decisions to make this offseason.

At the top of the list is whether to bring Hitchcock back. Yes, the Blues did better than 26 other teams, and yes, they finally got past the first round. Still, there are people who believe this will be it for the head coach, that a new voice could help. Overall, Hitchcock has done a great job in St. Louis. But then, so did Todd McLellan in San Jose. Sometimes, change can be good.

Then there are the unrestricted free agents. Both captain David Backes and winger Troy Brouwer need new contracts. The former is 32, the latter 30. The former had seven goals in the playoffs, the latter eight. How much money will they want? How much term? The second question might be the most important.

On the back end, it’s Kevin Shattenkirk that will garner the most attention. He’s signed through next season before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Just 27 years old, and considering the demand for what he does, he’ll be very expensive to keep. And with the emergence of Colton Parayko, trading Shattenkirk could probably be justified, especially if the return is good. A team like the Boston Bruins might be willing to pay up.

Right now, the pain is still fresh for the Blues.

“It’s so hard to win in the league right now,” said Hitchcock. “It’s so hard to win a series. So hard to just get in the playoffs. When you get this far, you get this close, you think you got the opportunity.”

The challenge for Armstrong will be to give his team another opportunity next season. And with the draft less than a month away, all these tough decisions will need to be made very soon.

Goals of the Week get tougher as Cup Final approaches

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The Stanley Cup Final is almost upon us and picking the very best Goals of the Week is a tough task. See how we did on this edition!

Just for Men: Mike Commodore

RALEIGH, NC - JUNE 14:  Mike Commodore #22 of the Carolina Hurricanes warms up before game five of the 2006 NHL Stanley Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers on June 14, 2006 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Getty
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Maybe one would argue that time hasn’t been kind to the 2006 Stanley Cup-winning Carolina Hurricanes (at least compared to the pedigree of other winners), but Mike Commodore’s incredible red afro and beard rank as one of hockey’s most timeless combinations.

Seriously, just take a step back from your monitor* and bask in the splendor of that carrot-topped Commodore.

Even then-President George W. Bush remarked on Commodore’s bushy hair and beard (or its tragic absence) when the Canes visited the White House:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. Have a seat. It’s a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn’t know how to ice skate — (laughter) — to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House. We appreciate you coming. You know, I’m not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore’s hair. (Laughter.) A little disappointed you got a haircut. (Laughter.) But, welcome.

Good stuff.

And it really is kind of disappointing any time you see Commodore relatively clean-shaven. It’s like Superman without a big “S” on his chest or Metallica with short hair or any number of not-quite-right sights.

* – If you’re doing the Rumsfeld-style “standing at your desk” thing then … kneel for a second maybe?

Here’s your Stanley Cup playoffs schedule for tonight

Stanley Cup
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There’s nothing better than a Game 7, especially when a spot in the Stanley Cup Final is up for grabs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins will battle in a do-or-die game for the right to play the San Jose Sharks with Lord Stanley on the line. You can watch the game via the NBC Sports Group’s television and digital platforms.

Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh (8:00 p.m. ET)

The television broadcast of Game 7 will be on NBCSN. To stream the game using the Live Extra app, click here.

Here’s some reading material to get you ready for this one:

Penguins, Lightning prepare for ‘roller coaster’ Game 7

Penguins force Game 7 after holding off Lightning rally

Lightning lament Game 6 effort, Cooper doesn’t blame disallowed goal