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.

Red Wings sign Tomas Tatar: four years, $21.2M

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It turns out that Tomas Tatar‘s days are numbered with the Detroit Red Wings by almost 1,500.*

After a salary arbitration hearing and concerns that he might leave after a single season, “Band-Aid” sort of deal, a wide variety of reporters state that the two sides instead agreed to a four-year deal with a $5.3 million cap hit, which would total $21.2 million.

Those figures come from MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, the Detroit News’ Ted Kulfan, FanRag’s Craig Morgan, and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman. The Red Wings confirmed that it was four years, but didn’t mention the financial details in their release.

Here’s the reported yearly breakdown (cue ominous music for that lockout-protection drop in 2020-21), via Morgan:

Again, this feels like a change in viewpoint, as even just yesterday it was reasonable to wonder if Tatar would only stick around for 2017-18. Now, it is possible that Tatar might get traded at some point, but a four-year deal is a bit surprising. The forward himself speculated that a one-year deal would be it.

This contract makes Tatar, 26, the Red Wings’ second-most expensive forward from a cap perspective, trailing only Henrik Zetteberg’s $6.083 million.

Even with this deal out of the way, Red Wings GM Ken Holland still has some work to do, including re-signing speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou. And the situation is tight.

* – Four times 365 is 1,460. Get it?

Wingels fractures foot, but should be ready for Blackhawks camp

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The good news is that Tommy Wingels is expected to be ready for Chicago Blackhawks training camp. The bad news is that he’ll be limited in his training regimen … although that very regimen caused him issues in the first place.

Dr. Michael Terry, the Blackhawks’ team doctor, released the following update regarding Wingels:

“Tommy Wingels sustained a left foot fracture during his off-season training. We anticipate a full recovery in six to eight weeks and in time for training camp. We do not anticipate any long-term issues.”

It’s unclear what caused the specific injury. Dropped weight? Unlucky fall? Perhaps a stress fracture? Without knowing the exact issue, it’s tempting to picture various painful scenarios.

(Probably because we’re in the dog days of the hockey summer, too.)

Wingels, 29, is on a one-year deal with Chicago, carrying a $750K salary and cap hit. He last played for the Ottawa Senators, though Blackhawks fans are most likely to remember him from his lengthy stay with the San Jose Sharks.

Six-to-eight weeks seems like it wouldn’t give a ton of room for error, so we’ll see if he’ll actually be ready for training camp.

Dahlin headlines Sweden’s roster for World Junior Summer Showcase

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Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, potentially the NHL’s first overall draft pick in 2018, will suit up for Sweden at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan.

Dahlin, who doesn’t turn 18 until April, has wowed scouts with his skating and puck-moving ability. At the 2017 World Juniors, he participated as a 16-year-old, garnering tantalizing reviews in the process.

Top-10 picks in the 2017 draft, Elias Pettersson (5th, Vancouver Canucks) and Lias Andersson (7th, New York Rangers), will also be in Plymouth representing Sweden.

Click here for Sweden’s and Finland’s Summer Showcase rosters. The tournament runs from July 29 – Aug. 5 and also features players from the United States and Canada.

Among the draft-eligible Finns to watch is 17-year-old forward Jesse Ylonen, who could be a late first-rounder in 2018.

Related: USA Hockey invites 42 players to World Junior Summer Showcase

All of a sudden, hope for hockey in Houston

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Leslie Alexander’s decision to sell the NBA’s Rockets has revived hope for a hockey team in Houston.

That’s because Alexander is arguably the biggest reason that Houston doesn’t already have a team. The 72-year-old billionaire controls Toyota Center, where the Rockets play. Without getting into all the details, he’s essentially been the only one who could bring an NHL franchise to the city.

From the Houston Press:

But Alexander selling the Rockets (and the lease that goes with it), opens up an NHL-ready hockey arena in Houston. And that’s something that Seattle, which the NHL seemed to favor, can’t offer, and unlike Quebec City, Houston offers up a huge media market with many, many large corporations around to buy up luxury seats.

Houston is certainly a big city. In fact, only four metro areas in the United States — New York, L.A., Chicago and Dallas — have higher populations.

And Houston is growing fast.

Jeremy Jacobs, the influential owner of the Boston Bruins, has not hidden his desire to put an NHL team in Toyota Center. Back in 2015, he told ESPN.com, “I would love to see one in Houston, but we can’t get into that building.”

Perhaps soon the NHL won’t have that impediment.

FanRag’s Cat Silverman wrote extensively about this topic yesterday. To learn more, give it a read.