By Brian Monzo
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The Devils are coming off an interesting season. They failed early and let go of rookie coach John MacLean. Enter Jacques Lemaire, who turned things around and nearly led New Jersey to the playoffs.
Lemaire has since retired (again) and the Devils have some voids to fill.
The team filed for arbitration with Zach Parise, so he’ll stay for at least one more season. One less headache to worry about. They have 12 forwards locked up. Restricted free agent forward Vladimir Zharkov was tendered and I expect unrestricted free agent Adam Mair will go in another direction.
On defense, they have their three veterans locked up in Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder and Colin White. Bryce Salvador is still signed, but with his concussion issues, his future is in question. They tendered RFA’s Matt Corrente, Matt Taormina and Mark Fraser. Anssi Salmela was not qualified.
In goal, as I’ve been preaching, the Devils need to find someone for life after Martin Brodeur. They haven’t yet. Also, they don’t have a backup goalie under contract for next season. My feeling is they will bring back Johan Hedberg for another season.
The Devils needs are some secondary scoring behind Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac. They could also use a defenseman with some offensive ability.
Their payroll is right around the $52 million, plus whatever Parise gets (and their RFAs). This doesn’t leave them a lot room, but it’s certainly enough to grab two players.
The two they should look at: forward Vinny Prospal and defenseman Anton Babchuk.
I know a lot of people might think I am nuts about Prospal. But he still can put up 40-50 very valuable points and would cost less then $2 million. In 29 games last season with the Rangers, he put up 23 points. Prospal isn’t the greatest goal scorer but can still pass the puck at a very high level. Playing on the 3rd line with youngsters Jacob Josefson and Mattias Tedenby, I can see Prospal being very helpful, at a good price.
Babchuk would be very useful to the Devils. Their defense is solid — and there is a very good chance Adam Larsson, drafted 4th overall in last weekend’s draft, makes the team. Babchuk, however, is only 27, and has a little more offense in his game then any current defenseman on the roster. He has scored 35 points in each of the last two seasons and can contribute a little bit on the power play. I am not making him out to be Nicklas Lidstrom, but he would be a solid 3-4 defenseman who will boost the Devils’ offense. It would be a small move that makes a big difference.
The Devils are in a weird phase right now. They still have no coach and a lot of older players. Yet the team has some really good young players in their system. This season could be really good or really bad.
The free agency frenzy starts tomorrow. It’s going to be awesome.
The New York Rangers edition is on its way.
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Who should the Devils sign? Let Monzo know in the comments below…