Cory Schneider

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Devils dealing: New Jersey’s cap situation after Severson signing

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The New Jersey Devils have a long way to go, but it looks like they’re in pretty good hands with GM Ray Shero.

For casual fans, handing defenseman Damon Severson a six-year, $25 million contract was an eyebrow-raiser on Monday. The 23-year-old isn’t a household name, so a $4,166,666 stands as a scary (though delightfully Devils-themed) cap hit.

That deal might indeed raise some eyebrows, but maybe down the line, as Severson’s shown some very nice promise, particularly in 2016-17. If anything, there’s serious evidence that the Devils haven’t been relying on him enough.

It remains to be seen if the Devils can combine nice strides and baby steps to a leap in competition with enough speed to take advantage of the stronger parts of their roster. With that in mind, let’s break down New Jersey’s salary structure after Severson’s deal.

Masters of their trades

Opposing GMs don’t need to hit the red “Ignore” button when Shero’s caller ID comes up, but they might want to approach dealings cautiously in the future. Simply put, the Devils have been dealing well over the years, especially since Shero took over.

Taylor Hall – $6M through 2019-20.

If you’re looking for anti-Hall rhetoric, you’ve come to the wrong place.

He’s a superb first-line winger, and despite somehow being a lottery ball magnet, is still just 25. Here’s hoping that Hall gets a chance to show how fantastic he really is in games that matter before too long.

The beauty of his deal is that it’s fairly easy to move if the Devils and/or Hall believe that his best chance to compete would be to go somewhere else … while netting New Jersey some assets.

Kyle Palmieri – The Ducks must kick themselves for choosing other interesting forwards over Palmieri, who’s scored 26 and 30 goals during his two seasons for the Devils. He comes at the low-low price of $4.65M through 2020-21.

Check out how convoluted the asset situation was involving Palmieri, via Hockey Reference:

June 27, 2015: Traded to New Jersey by Anaheim for Florida’s 2nd round pick (previously acquired, later traded to NY Rangers – NY Rangers selected Ryan Gropp) in 2015 NHL Draft and Minnesota’s 3rd round pick (previously acquired, later traded to Buffalo, later traded to Nashville – Nashville selected Rem Pitlick) in 2016 NHL Draft.

*scratches head*

Marcus Johansson – $4.5833M for two seasons.

The Devils took advantage of the Capitals’ cap woes to lift a quality forward who comes at a reasonable price. “MarJo” could really drive up his value if New Jersey gives him a more prominent role.

Some concerns

Cory Schneider ($6M for five more seasons) was another nice trade get, even as the Vancouver Canucks have been very happy with Bo Horvat. Shero wasn’t GM at the time of the deal, so that’s part of the reason Schneider is in a different section.

The other: there’s a bit of concern here. Schneider’s frequently been downright fantastic, but 2016-17 was rough, and one has to worry at least a little bit that he might struggle more as time goes on. At age 31, it’s possible his best days are behind him.

Age could also be a worry for banged-up center Travis Zajac ($5.75M through 2020-21) and Andy Green ($5M for three more years), a blueliner who is used in heavy defensive situations. Ben Lovejoy and Brian Boyle seem like short-term placeholders with two years remaining on their respective deals.

Of course, the biggest concern for the Devils is also an obvious one: their defense.

Even with Severson being sneaky-good, that unit has a lot of room for improvement. Considering how sought-after defense is in the current NHL, it might not be so easy to make drastic changes to this group.

(If anyone can pull off some clever trades, it might be Shero, though.)

Young guns

The plus side of the Devils’ suffering is that they’ve been able to add some intriguing young talent. That’s most obvious in the Devils nabbing Nico Hischier in a rare moment: the Devils getting the top pick of a draft.

The key, then, will be development. Hischier might not be as much of a challenge, but can the Devils get the most out of Pavel Zacha and prized college free agent Will Butcher?

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The Devils’ forwards group has taken some remarkable steps forward, to the point that the franchise may flip its identity in the near future as an offensively potent, defensively shaky group.

Of course, that’s under the assumption that management won’t have much luck bolstering the blueline.

This isn’t a perfect situation in New Jersey, but credit Shero for putting some impressive building blocks down for a team whose past perennial status made a rebuild challenging.

Horvat believes he is ‘just scratching the surface’

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The Vancouver Canucks were finally able to sign restricted free agent Bo Horvat to a new contract on Friday, giving him a six-year, $33 million contract.

The team is obviously excited about what Horvat has accomplished and what he is capable of in the future with general manager Jim Benning calling him a “foundational player.”

Horvat, the team’s first-round pick in 2012, chosen with the pick that was acquired in the Cory Schneider trade with the New Jersey Devils, had his best year to date in 2016-17 by scoring 20 goals and recording 32 assists, leading the team in both goals and total points. It was the first time since the 2005-06 season that a player other than Henrik or Daniel Sedin finished as the team’s leading scorer (Markus Naslund was the leading scorer that year).

Just now entering his age 22 season, Horvat should be entering the portion of his career where he is capable of his best hockey, and that has to be an encouraging sign for the Canucks given what he has already shown. His production has improved steadily across the board every year that he has been in the league and this past season he took a big step toward being a reliable top-line scorer.

He believes that he is just now starting to scratch the surface.

Here he is talking about his new deal on Friday, via Sportsnet’s Iian MacIntyre:

“I did,” he said today. “(But) I think them signing me to a long-term deal means that they they have a lot of support for me and they believe in me. I’m really humbled by that and, obviously, I respect them for that.

“I think I’m just scratching the surface. I’ve only been in the league three years. These next six years is where I can really step up my game and prove myself.”

He was one of just 11 players age 21 or younger to score at least 20 goals and record at least 50 points this past season, joining a list that included Connor McDavid, Austin Matthews, Patrik Laine, Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, Nikolaj Ehlers, Jack Eichel, William Nylander, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Drouin.

The bad news for the Canucks as a team is that are still looking at what will probably be another long season in 2017-18, especially as the Sedins get one year closer to retirement.

But Horvat, assuming he continues to develop as he has over his first three years in the league, is at least one player that should provide a little bit of hope for the future.

Under Pressure: Cory Schneider

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This post is a part of Devils day at PHT…

During his first three years with the New Jersey Devils starting goalie Cory Schneider was one of the few bright spots on the team.

At times, he was the only bright spot.

He was one of the best goalies in the league and probably the only thing that kept them even reasonably competitive at times. He never had a save percentage lower than .920 in any of the three seasons and finished in the top-six two different times.

Had he played on a better team that could have given him more offensive support he probably would have been given more consideration for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie (and even without that offensive support he probably should have been given more consideration for it).

But this past season everything sort of fell apart for him, and by extension, the Devils.

He ended up finishing with a .908 save percentage, a mark that was not only the worst of his career, but also one of the worst in the NHL. For a Devils team that was dependent on its goaltending due to a lack of offense and a shaky defense his down year was pretty much the worst possible scenario and it helped result in one of the NHL’s worst records and a fifth consecutive non-playoff season.

Given Schneider’s track record in the NHL it is pretty clear that the 2016-17 season was a massive outlier when it comes to his performance. He has consistently been one of the best goalies in the league. But if the Devils are going to show any sign of meaningful improvement in 2017 they can not have a repeat performance from Schneider. Even with the addition of Marcus Johansson and the drafting of Nico Hischier with the No. 1 overall pick the Devils are still going to be a team that struggles to score goals (even if they improve), especially with Travis Zajac being sidelined for the next four-to-six months. He is also playing behind a defense that surrendered close to 32 shots on goal per game this past season and did not undergo any significant changes.

Given that expected workload and will almost certainly be another year without much goal support the Devils won’t have a chance if Schneider doesn’t return to his previous form.

It would also be beneficial for the Devils given that they still have $30 million committed to him over the next five seasons. He is their best player, their highest paid player, and their most important player. His overall body of work would seem to indicate he is capable of bouncing back, and he very likely will. If he doesn’t, it is going to be another long season for the Devils.

Devils hire Cory Schneider’s former goalie coach from Vancouver

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The New Jersey Devils made a change to their coaching staff on Saturday when they announced the hiring of Roland Melanson to be their new goalie coach. Melanson had been working for the Vancouver Canucks in the same position.

Former goalie coach Chris Terreri will remain with the organization but in a different capacity.

“I want to thank Trevor Linden and the Vancouver Canucks organization for allowing Rollie to join the New Jersey Devils,” said general manager Ray Shero in a statement released by the way. “Rollie is well-respected throughout the League as a teacher and his experience with various goaltenders will be very beneficial. Additionally, I have enjoyed working with Chris the past two years and I am very happy that he will remain with the organization. His knowledge and passion will help us continue to grow as a team.”

The interesting connection here, of course, is that Melanson served as the Canucks’ goalie coach between 2011 and this past season, meaning he spent a couple of years working with current Devils goaltender Cory Schneider before he was traded to the Devils prior to the 2013-14 season.

Schneider has been one of the league’s best goalies ever since he became a regular in the NHL but is coming off of a 2016-17 performance that was the worst single season of his career, managing only a .908 save percentage for the Devils.

Melanson spent 11 years in the NHL as a goalie and appeared in one game for the Devils during the 1990-91 season.

Devils sign backup G Kinkaid for two years, $2.5M

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While the New Jersey Devils are a work in progress these days, they’ve been able to enjoy good-to-great goaltending.

They took a step to maintain that standard on Thursday, signing solid backup netminder Keith Kinkaid to a two-year, $2.5 million contract. With Cory Schneider signed at $6 million through 2021-22, New Jersey has that position covered for some time.

Kinkaid, 27, established himself as an NHL regular over the last three seasons, playing in 69 regular-season games with a career save percentage of .912. He actually enjoyed a stronger 2016-17 from that perspective than Schneider (.916 vs. Schneider’s unusually weak .908).

He hasn’t been able to translate respectable numbers to a lot of wins, however, as Kinkaid’s career record is 23-27-8. Much like Schneider, he’ll need more help – particularly more goal support – to drive those totals up.

Still, with this duo, the Devils enjoy stability in net … which they’re quite used to.