Next forty-eight hours critical for Devils going forward

GM Lou Lamoriello working the phones during the NHL draft

So far, all’s calm before the storm but with the 2014 NHL Draft in the books, now we’re about to reach the most pivotal point of our (and most other teams’) offseason, with the compliance buyout window closing today – and needing to put players on waivers by noon to make that happen – we’ll probably know pretty soon which way the Devils’ offseason is going to go.  If neither of our statue defensemen are bought out, the Devils will have minimal cap space to improve up front, given they still need to sign a fourth line, RFA’s Jacob Josefson, Adam Larsson, Eric Gelinas, and a backup goalie with now less than $10 million of room under a surprisingly low $69 million cap.  And clearly no room to re-sign Mark Fayne, who’s probably a goner either way at this point.  If we do buy out either Bryce Salvador – unlikely – or Anton Volchenkov, you can at least dream of an addition at forward beyond just bringing in an older reject like Martin Havlat, or as much as I love the guy Brian Gionta.

Clearly we need more youth and speed, everyone from me, you and the lamppost knows that.  Unfortunately the draft of Lou Lamoriello and David Conte seems to indicate we’re stuck in the 1990’s.  Okay I’m not going to kill drafting John Quenneville the way some have because he’s the wrong ex-Devil’s relative.  He seems like he’ll develop into a nice player and we didn’t even have this pick a few months ago so fine.  We drafted another defenseman in the second round (obligatory rolleyes) though I can’t kill it too much since it’s a formula that’s worked for them in recent years.  Still, it’s another asset that could have been used to improve our forward core.  We definitely wanted Josh Jacobs though, even having a jersey ready which is a bit unusual for a second-round pick.  But arguably with three of our last four picks we picked players that project as grinders/goons.  Granted this wasn’t a deep draft anyway but in a league that’s phasing out one-dimensional fighters, you can get guys like that as UDFA.  It also seems like we’re staying away from younger overseas players considering almost our entire drafts the last few years have been North American skaters.  Oh well I can’t really nitpick each guy too much since I’m not a draftnik but it just seems to fit in with an outdated philosophy where we try to beat speed and skill with grit alone.

Still, anyone that does make the NHL from this draft will likely come to a completely different team since only three guys on our current roster are signed beyond 2015-16, and one of them (Ryane Clowe) isn’t like to be playing by then sadly with his two concussions last year proving how desperate our five-year contract was.  Clowe’s ‘situation’ does give the Devils unofficially more room to play with if he’s going to start the season on IR – word through the grapevine is he was in pretty bad shape at the team awards at the end of the season.  Which also gives them another player they have to replace since Clowe was supposed to be David Clarkson’s replacement.  Maybe Stefan Matteau’s return is in the cards after a full season in Albany but I can’t imagine him playing above the fourth line this season.

Perhaps having Matteau and Reid Boucher play the whole season in Albany and appear close to ready has changed their philosophy on the fourth line since currently none of CBGB have been re-signed (two years ago all were quickly signed before FA).  That would be one way to up the speed quotient I suppose, but I can’t imagine us having a fourth line be developmental under this head coach the way it has been in other organizations.  Since teams have talked to their own FA’s and outside guys during the interview period – which was a ‘distraction’ during the draft according to Lou – we’ll know very quickly tomorrow afternoon when guys can sign contracts what dominoes are going to fall where.  Perhaps some teams already have a wink, wink inkling judging by the Lightning’s flurry of moves last night – essentially they cleared out Teddy Purcell and Nate Thompson for cap space and three lower-round draft picks.

I wish I could be anxious but I’m holding my breath fearing the worst – i.e. no imminent extension for Cory Schnieder, Fayne walking (and quite possibly to a division rival) and us keeping the statue D-men, while only bringing back Brian to ‘upgrade’ the offense.  How could I not with the trajectory of the last two offseasons and Lou’s tendency to go to the well once too often with ex-Devils and keep valuable assets and let them walk for nothing? – Fayne being the latest example.  Like I said before, if we don’t buy out/trade anyone before FA then I’m not exactly expecting sweeping changes.  Although we still have eight defensemen on the NHL roster even without Fayne and you would think some move has to be made no matter what, but it seems like since the 2010 fiasco now Lou’s getting overprotective of keeping a stash of D around.  Not like it’s helped the last two playoff-less seasons any.

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