‘Devils in the Details’
By Sean Hartnett
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With Ilya Kovalchuk’s return date unclear, New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello cannot stand pat at the April 3 trade deadline.
Kovalchuk suffered a right shoulder injury on March 23 and was originally expected to miss 2-to-4 weeks. It’s entirely possible that the Devils’ scoring ace will return just as the 2013 NHL playoffs gets under way. If that’s the case, it’s imperative that Lamoriello acquires an established scorer to aid the Devils’ playoff push.
Even considering Kovalchuk’s contributions, the Devils are 25th overall in scoring with 2.42 goals per game. The Devils need to add scoring insurance, because right now a number of their key stars are slumping.
Clarkson, Henrique Stuck In Cold Streak
David Clarkson is continuing to struggle for goals. After a sizzling start where he found eight points in the opening six games of the season, Clarkson been frustrated by opposing goalies. The gritty power forward is on a four-game pointless drought and has only scored two goals in his past 22 games.
Equally as cold is Adam Henrique. Last season’s Calder Trophy finalist is without a point in his last six games. Meanwhile, Travis Zajac is suffering through a funk after being rewarded with an eight-year, $46 million extension. Zajac has just 14 points in 36 games and the Devils expected Zajac to take on greater responsibility after Zach Parise bolted for Minnesota.
Outside of the evergreen Patrik Elias and shrewd addition of centerman Andrei Loktionov, the Devils haven’t found a great deal of consistency from their forward lines. Head coach Pete DeBoer has been juggling lines to find a spark and is yet to find one.
That was the case on Monday night when the Devils failed to match the Islanders’ energy in the opening period of play. Too often, New Jersey has struggled out of the gates in the first period, making uphill climbs far too common.
After the 3-1 defeat to the Isles, Martin Brodeur went to great lengths explaining the importance for the Devils to improve on special teams.
“Special teams are so important right now,” Brodeur stated. “Both of these are costing us games. We have opportunities on both sides to really make a difference in a game, to change the momentum of a game and it hasn’t happened.”
If the Devils wish to make their playoff chase easier, they must turn over every stone as the hours tick down to the 3 p.m. trade deadline on April 3. As evidenced on Monday night, the Islanders aren’t going away any time soon.
Lamoriello pulled off a lopsided trade by dealing a fifth-round draft pick to acquire Loktionov. The current trade market benefits the sellers with GMs around the league demanding a premium for available players. If Lamoriello is to come away with a proven scorer, he might have give up more value — but it will be worth it if the Devils have ambitions of making a return trip to the Stanley Cup finals.
Jagr To Bruins; Devils Should Consider Stafford
Since losing out in the Jarome Iginla sweepstakes, the Boston Bruins were the clear front-runners to acquire Jaromir Jagr.
The Bruins are expected to finalize a reported deal to bring the 41-year-old to TD Garden ahead of a number of interested teams, including the Devils.
Now that Jagr will be landing in Boston, one name Lamoriello should be kicking the tires on is Drew Stafford of the Buffalo Sabres. The Sabres are in the midst of a massive fire sale the Sabres are looking to shed Stafford’s $4 million salary owed for this season and the next.
Stafford is currently stuck in a down year with Sabres, though it should be noted that he’s been a 30- and 20-goal scorer in recent seasons. Since the Sabres are in the process of rebuilding and shedding salary, the price to acquire Stafford wouldn’t enormous.
Without Kovalchuk’s gifted scoring touch in the lineup, a top-six winger in the mold of Stafford would give the Devils the insurance needed to keep the Isles and other playoff chasers below them in the standings. Knowing Lamoriello’s history, it would be shocking if the Devils don’t take the proactive route by adding a veteran scorer.
How desperate is the Devils’ need to add a scorer before the trade deadline? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettHockey.