New Jersey Devils

Benning knows he ‘could get criticized’ for trading fan favorite Eddie Lack

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FORT LAUDERDALE — With the petition to “Keep Eddie Lack!” approaching 1,500 signatures, Canucks GM Jim Benning knows he could be in for some abuse.

If Lack is traded, there will be a lot of angry fans in Vancouver, a market that’s already had to say good-bye to Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider in the last couple of years.

But Benning’s job is to put the best team on the ice, and he feels that keeping Ryan Miller and trading one of Lack or Jacob Markstrom is the best strategy.

“Sitting in my shoes, and when I talk to my management team, we have to make the decision that’s best for the organization going forward,” said Benning.

“I know if that’s the way we decide to go, I could get criticized. But that’s part of the job. There’s nothing I can do about that.”

Benning reiterated today that Vancouver won’t be trading Miller, because “we want to keep a veteran goalie.”

So it’s either Lack, the fan favorite, or Markstrom, the AHL all-star, who will be dealt.

“I think a big part of our team last year was that we had two good goalies,” said Benning. “Ryan is a proven number-one goalie in the league. So we want to keep Ryan, then we have to make a hard decision on the other two guys.

“Now, part of that decision is going to be based on who we think has the most upside, and part of it’s going to be how he fits in our salary cap situation. That’s just the decision that we have to make to keep moving forward.”

The Buffalo Sabres, armed with a pair of second-round draft picks, are reportedly one of the teams interested in Lack.

Related: Benning confident Canucks can ‘get a fairly high draft pick’ for Lack or Markstrom

 

Devils re-sign goalie Wedgewood: two years, $1.175M

The Devils locked in another netminder on Monday, agreeing to a contract extension with third-stringer Scott Wedgewood.

The deal is two years at $1.175 million — an average annual cap hit of $587,500 — and is of the two-way variety. Wedgewood, 22, was taken by New Jersey in the third round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and has spent the last three seasons with AHL Albany, appearing in 36 games in each of the last two.

Prior to new GM Ray Shero coming aboard, the Devils had inked No. 2 goalie Keith Kinkaid to a two-year, $1.45 million extension. Kinkaid earned the deal after his first full season as Cory Schneider’s backup, in which he fared well — the 25-year-old went 6-5-4 in 19 appearances, posting a .915 save percentage and 2.59 GAA.

So for the next two years, the Devils have Schneider and Kinkaid at the NHL level and Wedgewood locked in as the No. 3. Now all that’s left is to figure out the rest of the roster.

Benning: Canucks waiting ‘for the domino effect’ in goalie market

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In 2013, the Vancouver Canucks, then under former general manager Mike Gillis, had goalies Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo and decided to send the former to New Jersey for the ninth overall pick.

In 2015, Jim Benning, entering his second year as the Canucks’ GM, is facing a similar decision in the goaltending department with the first round of the NHL Draft now just six days away. It’s not a Schneider-Luongo situation, but with Vancouver needing draft picks, and three goalies with varying degrees of NHL experience and success in Ryan Miller, Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom, a decision looms.

The Canucks select 23rd overall, but as of right now, they don’t have another pick until the fourth round in what is considered to be a deep draft.

Benning made it known immediately after the trade deadline that he’d like to recoup picks for the draft.

Markstrom, who was the backbone for the Utica Comets in their run to the AHL championship series, is a pending restricted free agent. Lack has one year remaining on his current deal, which is cap-friendly at $1.15 million.

Ben Kuzma of The Province reported this week that Benning has taken trade calls from other teams on both Markstrom and Lack.

Any potential move the Canucks make at this position might be dependent on what, if anything, happens with New York goalie Cam Talbot. Previous reports had as many as six teams having “some interest” in Talbot.

“There’s good depth in the second round and I’d like to have a second-round pick but it’s a balancing act for us,” Benning told The Province newspaper in Vancouver.

“It might not be a pick but a way of making our team better — we’re looking at all options. But I think I’ll be able to figure something out on that (draft pick) because when one goalie goes, they’re going to move on to the next guy. We’re waiting for the domino effect.”

Related: Canucks might move a goalie, but it won’t be Ryan Miller

Devils retain goalie coach Terreri

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On Friday, the New Jersey Devils announced that Chris Terreri would remain on as the club’s goaltending coach, essentially completing new bench boss John Hynes’ coaching staff.

Terreri, 50, has served the club as goaltending coach since 2009-10, after spending eight seasons in a similar role at the American Hockey League level. His hire came after a lengthy playing career in which he won a pair of Cups with the Devils — in 1995 and 2000 — and appeared in over 400 NHL contests all told.

His presence on Hynes’ staff is significant. Following the departure of longtime GM Lou Lamoriello for the newly-minted Ray Shero, the Devils have undergone a significant change in which much of the “old guard” — including Lamoriello favorites Adam Oates and Scott Stevens — were pushed out. Oates and Stevens were replaced by Alain Nasreddine and Geoff Ward, but Terreri will remain in place to continue working with Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid.

All quiet between Devils and UFAs Bernier, Gomez

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New Jersey’s penchant for leaning on veteran skaters could soon be coming to an end.

Pending UFAs Steve Bernier, 30, and Scott Gomez, 35, haven’t heard much of anything from new GM Ray Shero about their futures with the club, per the Bergen Record.

Bernier said his agent, Kent Hughes, also has yet to hear from Shero about his contract. So, though Bernier is understanding about how busy Shero has been, he also has to prepare for the possibility that the Devils might not want him back and see what other teams would be interested if/when he officially becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

“Obviously, it’s the same for every player,” Bernier said. “We don’t know where New Jersey stands in terms of me, so we have no choice but to talk to other teams and see what’s available.”

That’s not his first choice, though.

“I don’t know if I should be, but I’m still positive that New Jersey might call,” Bernier said. “I’m hoping, actually. I’m hoping they’re going to call, but you need to be prepared to move if you have a chance to. My family likes it a lot in New Jersey, so, hopefully, we’re going to know a lot more before July 1.”

Center Scott Gomez’s agent, Ian Pulver, said that there was “nothing to report” as far as contract talks with the Devils other than some initial contact from Shero.

While it’s been widely assumed the team’s other veteran UFAs — Martin Havlat and Michael Ryder most specifically — were done in New Jersey, there was some belief the Devils could retain Bernier and Gomez, based largely on their impressive performances last season.

Bernier tied for second on the team with 16 goals while playing on a relatively inexpensive one-year, $600,000 deal. Gomez, who made $550,000, was even better — he finished tied for third on the team in scoring, with 34 points, and led all skaters with 27 assists.