The past few summers have been exceptionally hard on New Jersey after consecutively losing their two biggest stars. Last year it was Zach Parise, and this year was the move that blind-sided the entire hockey community—Ilya Kovalchuck’s retirement. Not to mention David Clarkson moving on to Toronto. But can the Devils rebound from losing their big names and rebuild a team with what they have left? New Jersey would like to think so.
On the bright side, the team resigned veteran and long-time Devil Patrik Elias to a three-year contract extension. They also resigned defenseman Dianius Zubrus and forward Adam Henrique, who was a big part of their 2012 playoff run. Those extensions offered a sigh of relief for Devils fans everywhere.
The Devils also made some not-so-subtle moves in the off-season, the most striking being Cory Schneider. During the draft they made a show-stopping announcement to trade a first round pick for the then-Vancouver goalie. This move drew a lot of attention, and was definitely the right move for the Devils. With Marty Brodeur in the last year of his contract at age 41, Cory Schneider is a good fit for the future.
In addition to Schneider, they added Jaromir Jagr. At 41 years old, this may very well be his last season, and he played for almost every other Atlantic Division team so I guess he figured, “why not give New Jersey a shot.” Jagr will certainly be Cup-hungry in his last season, so hopefully that will give the Devils the spark they have been in need of.
If the spark doesn’t come from Jagr, there is a good possibility it could come from ex-Ranger Ryane Clowe who they recently signed to a 5-year contract. Clowe is a power forward who isn’t afraid to throw a few big hits and punches every now and then. The Devils could really use someone who has the ability to score and provide physicality; hopefully this can be their man for the next 5 years.
2013 will have to be a year of stepping-up and learning to produce for those players that had recently been in the shadows of Kovalchuck, Parise, and Clarkson. Players like Michael Ryder, Rostislav Olesz, Mark Fayne, and Mattias Tedenby are sure to see a lot of face-time as the Devils try to sort out their ‘new’ team.
So, back to the original question. Will the Devils be able to rebound after losing their core players? It will be tough, but if they can fix a few of the issues they struggled with last season (refer back to Five Things the Devils Need to do for Next Season), this certainly doesn’t have to be a throw-away season.