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30 Teams in 30 Days - New Jersey Devils Written by habsfan93 - September 5th, 2009

Over the course of 30 days, yours truly is going to take a look at each team in the league, examine their off-season moves, assess the biggest issue facing the team, highlight a player or two to watch for, and finally give an outlook on the season.

First up, the New Jersey Devils.

New Jersey Devils
Season 5: 36-34-12-0 (7th East, 2nd Atlantic)
GM: Marty (6th Season)

Currently Projected Season 6 Roster:
(New Additions in Bold; Rookies in Italics)

Kariya - Carter - Selanne
Lucic - Morrison - Kobasew
Campbell - Madden - Shannon
Raymond - J. Jokinen - Armstrong

Hamhuis - Rafalski
J. Johnson - Martin
Exelby - Sauer


What They Did In The Off-Season:
With a number of key players seeing their contracts end, and a number of players retiring, the focus for the Devils this summer was to keep the core of the team intact and try to add without taking away. Petr Nedved and PJ Axelsson decided to leave for Europe leaving two open spots up front. Goaltending depth was also hurt significantly with the losses of Dan Cloutier and David Aebischer to retirement.

The club also lost up and coming forward Jannik Hansen to the Toronto Maple Leafs on an offer sheet that has many GM's scratching their heads. The Leafs signed the unproven Hansen to a 3-year deal at nearly $2,000,000 a season, coughing up a 2nd round pick in next year's draft as compensation. Given that Hansen will not be at the Pro level until at least the 2nd, if not the 3rd year of that contract, this has some GM's crying foul and some players calling their agents.

However, Hansen aside, the club resigned most of their RFA's, and kept unrestricted free agents Brendan Morrison and Teemu Selanne in the fold. Selanne signed a 1-year deal for a small discount, that should bring his career to a close while Morrison was signed to a long-term, 4-year deal that should keep him as the #2 center in New Jersey for a long time. RFA's Jack Johnson, and Andrew Raycroft were able to cash in for the first time, and received significant raises on their previous contracts.

On the trade front, the Devils were busy prior to the draft where they significantly upgraded their defensive corps. They dealt last year's 1st round pick John Carlson as well as their 1st rounder this year (Carter Ashton) for established defenceman Dan Hamhuis. Hamhuis has been a model of consistency over the last 3 seasons, and is a significant acquisition for this club. Next, they dealt Nick Foligno and Dmitri Kalinin to the Sharks for Brian Rafalski, who with Hamhuis, will form one of the better 1-2 punches in the league. Given that Kalinin bolted from San Jose, and signed in Europe, this last deal looks to be an absolute steal!  
At the Entry Draft, the Devils held the 7th overall pick where they selected highly touted forward Jordan Schroeder, to no ones great surprise. Schroeder could combine with last year's top pick Cody Hodgson to form a fatal 1-2 punch in a few years. The Devils reached ahead and chose Finnish RW Toni Rajala in Round 2 - Rajala was predicted by many to go as late as Round 4. The team didn't select again until Round 5, but they chose 7 players in the final 3 rounds to add some depth to the farm system.

Finally, the Devils were quiet in Unrestricted Free Agency. The club signed collegiate defenceman Matt Gilroy to a big 3-year deal, banking on the notion that he could turn Pro by Season 7. Talks with another collegiate player, Tyler Bozak, went into overtime, but he opted to go to the Leafs instead who really seem to be a thorn in the Devils side this summer. Finally, the club also addressed their goaltending depth issues by signing Chris Holt to a 1-year deal.

Biggest Issue Facing the Team:

The Atlantic Division has only gotten better this summer. The Rangers and Penguins are much reinforced and look ready to seriously challenge for the Playoffs. And the Islanders and Flyers have not taken any steps backwards. Although the Devils have not gotten worse this summer, they have not gotten significantly better, which means it will be even tougher than before to keep pace in the Division.

The lack of a quality backup goalie could also spell some trouble. Raycroft is underrated in this league, and is a quality starter, but Chris Holt is an emergency stop-gap measure at best and will not be reliable over the course of 20-30 games.

And finally, salary. The Devils 20-man roster is currently just an inch above the Salary Cap which means that GM Marty is not done before the season starts. A guy like John Madden is a prime candidate to go as at $3,750,000, he is one of the most expensive 3rd line players in the league.

Player To Watch:

Jeff Carter - Carter had his best season yet last year with 71 points in 82 games, but he's been training hard over the summer and he will be given as many minutes on the ice as he can handle this year. With veterans Kariya and Selanne on his wings, there is no reason why Jeff Carter could not score 50 goals and hit the 100 point mark this year.

Season 6 Outlook:

A playoff spot is by no means a guarantee for the Devils this year. They squeeked in last year at the end of the season, but with improvements to the Rangers and Penguins, they might find themselves on the outside looking in this year. Nevertheless, as it is every year, the Atlantic is wide open and the Devils could find themselves in 1st as easily as they could in 5th.

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