New Jersey Devils

Devils won’t offer tryouts to Bernier, Gomez

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Scott Gomez was signed by the New Jersey Devils after participating in training camp on a tryout basis last year and it worked out well with him scoring seven goals and 34 points in 58 contests on a team that struggled offensively. History will not repeat itself.

Devils GM Ray Shero confirmed that Gomez, who remains unsigned, won’t receive a professional tryout offer. Steve Bernier, who tied his career-high with 32 points in 67 games last season, won’t be presented with an opportunity to make the team either.

“That’s not a direction I’m looking to go at this point. I think we made a decision back before the draft to let (Bernier) go to free agency and let him go in a different direction,” Shero told NJ Advance Media. “Obviously they haven’t signed anywhere yet, but I’m sure they are working on some things themselves.

“With Scott, as I’ve said before, it really wasn’t so much about him but more us going in a different direction.”

After finishing in the bottom-five of scoring for three consecutive seasons, Shero wants to focus on giving younger players an opportunity. He’s also moved the team’s rebuild forward by selecting Pavel Zacha with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Shero hasn’t ruled out the possibility of offering tryouts to other players, but it seems the march forward hasn’t left any room for Gomez or Bernier’s return.

Poll: Will the Devils’ offense improve this season?

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In the three seasons since reaching the Stanley Cup Final, the Devils have finished 28th, 27th and 28th overall in average goals-for per game.

During the 2011-12 season, the Devils were 15th overall in average goals-for per game. It was also the last season the club had a 30-goal scorer with Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and David Clarkson all reaching the 30-goal mark.

Last season New Jersey scored an average of 2.15 goals-for per-game ahead of only Arizona (2.01) and Buffalo (1.87).

Mike Cammalleri led the Devils with 27 goals in 2014-15 – his highest total since the 2008-09 season. No other member of the Devils reached the 20-goal mark.

“Looking at the team from the outside, since I just got here, up front is an area we’ll look at,” said Shero after being named the club’s new general manager in May. “We would want to score more goals and create more offense without abandoning a defensive structure and accountability that has been in place for years.”

In an attempt to address the club’s goal-scoring woes, Shero acquired Kyle Palmieri from the Anaheim Ducks for a pair of draft picks in June. The 24-year-old is coming off a season where he matched his career-best for goals (14) in 57 games with the Ducks.

Barring further additions to help the offense, it’s hard to see this Devils team taking a step forward offensively in 2015-16.

OK, time to vote:

Related: Under Pressure: Ray Shero

Devils’ biggest question: Will their young defense measure up?

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One of the biggest questions for the New Jersey Devils heading into the 2015-16 season surrounds the youth and inexperience the club has on its blue line.

With Adam Larsson, John Moore, Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill and Damon Severson, New Jersey could have as many as five defensemen 24 or younger on the back end to start the season.

The Devils will expect more out of Larsson who signed a new six-year, $25 million deal last month.

The 22-year-old had a strong second half last season scoring two goals and 18 assists in the final 40 games after registering just 13 points in his previous 85 games dating back to the 2012-13 season.

“I think he’s only scratched the surface of the kind of player he’s going to be,” GM Ray Shero said per The Bergen Record. “There’s a reason he was drafted when he was. He’s got a lot of experience already. He’s played a lot of ice time on the (penalty kill) and 5-on-5. He hasn’t had the chance to play a lot on the power play, yet.”

Shero could also go out and add a veteran in free agency.

According to Generalfanager.com, New Jersey currently has over $14 million cap space.

With a plethora of unrestricted free agent defensemen available, perhaps Shero could add blue liner or two on a camp invite.

“We’re looking to be in touch with some (player) agents for some free agents. Or with some teams. Or maybe the possibility of a tryout with one or two guys in training camp,” Shero said. “Some guys are still trying to get contracts.

“There’s plenty of time there, but you’re always looking to see what’s there. And if it’s something that makes sense for us, we’ll jump in. If not, we’ll go into training camp with what we have and see what’s available after that.”

Goaltender Cory Schneider knows he’ll play a role in helping out his young blue line.

“We’re in transition somewhat, but (I’ll) hopefully be a calming presence and a veteran presence, even though I feel I’m a young 29,” he told NJ Advance Media. “I hope to put my mark on a franchise and organization and hopefully carry them to a Stanley Cup one day.”

Related: New Jersey Devils ’15-16 Outlook

Under Pressure: Ray Shero

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Despite being in just his first season as general manager of the New Jersey Devils, Ray Shero is under pressure to address the concerns currently facing the organization.

New Jersey has missed the playoffs in three straight seasons and in four of the last five years.

One of the reasons for the lack of success in New Jersey has been the team’s inability to score goals. The Devils finished the 2014-15 season 28th overall in goals-for per-game with 2.15. The club has not had a 30-goal scorer since the 2011-12 season when Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise and David Clarkson each reached the 30-goal plateau.

“Obviously the last three years haven’t been what was expected,” Shero told NJ Advance Media last month. “We’ve got work to do.”

Not helping matters is ESPN’s latest prospects rankings, which has New Jersey’s prospects ranked 26th in the league ahead of just the L.A. Kings, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite the ranking, Shero told The Bergen Record’s Tom Gulitti in July that he felt there were “a handful” of players at the team’s development camp who could compete for jobs at training camp in September.

“I think there will be some surprises both on the good end and maybe not-so-good end,” Shero said. “But that’s training camp and that’s the competition.”

On the blue line, New Jersey’s youth will once again be tested. The Devils could have as many as five defensemen 24 or younger this season.

“We’re out to build a winner, an elite hockey team that wins on a consistent basis so that’s got to start with the organization,” said Devils’ owner Josh Harris. “The Devils organization is and was a quality organization.

“Anytime you bring in new leadership there’s always change and I think we try to embrace that and make it really positive.”

Related: Looking to make the leap: Pavel Zacha

New Jersey Devils ’15-16 Outlook

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The New Jersey Devils have finished in the bottom-five in scoring for three straight campaigns and once again their offense is a big area of concern.

No New Jersey player reached the 50-point mark last season and only two (Adam Henrique and Mike Cammalleri) recorded at least 40 points. Acquiring forward Kyle Palmieri in a trade with Anaheim over the summer does help matters, but offensively the Devils look like a long-term project that has only barely begun. Years from now, perhaps Pavel Zacha, who was taken with the sixth overall pick, will be a serious scoring threat, but for now New Jersey doesn’t have much in the way of young, NHL-ready forwards.

Stefan Matteau might establish himself as an NHL regular at the age of 21, but the 2012 first-round pick has never been a major contributor offensively. There’s always the chance that Henrique, 25, will take a step forward, but his career-high remains 51 points from his rookie season when he was working with Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. There’s clearly no one at that level for him to play off of at this time.

The good news is that the Devils’ situation looks less bleak when you move past their offense as in contrast, the blueline’s rebuild seems to be moving along nicely. Adam Larsson took a significant step forward last season and the hope is that he’ll lead the charge along with Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, and Damon Severson. The oldest of them, Gelinas, only celebrated his 24th birthday in May.

Then of course there’s their goaltending, which is in the capable hands of Cory Schneider. He demonstrated last season under trying circumstances that the Devils’ goalie situation remains their strength, even in the post-Martin Brodeur era.

Taking it all in, New Jersey isn’t without its strengths and upside, but until the Devils get to the point where they’re at least passable offensively, it will be difficult for them to make a serious run at a playoff spot.