Today, I’m taking a look at what next year’s defense might look like for the New Jersey Devils. I will start by saying that Adam Larrson will not be included. With the many draft projections out there, it seems Larrson will not be available when the Devils pick at the fourth position.
Defenseman under contract:
Anton Volchenkov- 4 more seasons at 4.250
Anton proved to find his groove after he returned from his concussion early in the season. While becoming comfortable, he provided a physical edge to the defense while making opponents a little more nervous about crossing the blue line with the puck.
Henrik Tallinder- 3 more seasons at 3.375
Henrik’s signing was under a lot of scrutiny in the beginning of the season. He seemed to be on the ice every time the opponents scored a goal. When the Devils started winning mid-way through the season, Henrik stepped up and became the Devils most reliable defenseman.
Colin White- 1 more season at 3
At times, Colin White was the best defenseman on the team. At other times, he was the worst. He provides little to no offensive capability and that is very important in today’s NHL. If Bryce Salvador stays on board and is healthy, the Devils might look to move White.
Bryce Salvador- 1 more season at 2.9
Bryce Salvador’s season was a mystery. Not many people actually saw him get hurt but it was enough to land him on the IR for the length of the season. Some argued that it was a way of saving salary cap dollars. If healthy, Salvador is an important piece to the defense.
Mark Fayne- 1 more season at .555
Mark Fayne became a positive part of the defense in the second half of the season. He even added offense from time to time. He will not have a guaranteed spot next season but if he can keep developing like he has shown, he will play.
Alexander Urbom- 1 more season at .568
Alex Urbom was very shaky and lacked confidence when he was first given a shot on opening night. When the Devils let him play in the season finale, he looked like a completely different player. He is someone that the team counts on very much to be a defensive force with a considerable offensive upside. If he looks sharp at camp, expect him to be in the lineup opening night.
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Andy Greene emerged as the Devils best puck moving defenseman two season ago. He had a minor setback this past season but will surely attract teams if he chooses to go to free agency. I think the Devils will lock him up for a three year deal with around a 1.75 cap number
Jay Leach rejoined the Devils in what looked like emergency conditions. With a healthy roster, there is simply no reason to have Leach and for this reason, he will not be re-signed.
Restricted Free Agents:
Before getting injured, Corrente was getting some playing time at the NHL level. He was one of the only players on the team with an attitude and an edge to his game. His hockey skill-set is what is setting him back. He will be re-signed, but unless he makes a significant splash at training camp, he will be passed by Urbom, Gelinas, Burlon, Taormina, and eventually Merril.
Anssi Salmela proved to be valuable last season right after the team tried to get rid of him through waivers. He scored the overtime goal in the huge win against the Islanders in March when the Devils were closest to clawing back for a playoff spot. With the youngsters on the rise, Salmela is going to be seen as an extra defenseman unless he proves otherwise.
Matt Taormina looked great before getting injured. He was scoring a few goals, leading the rush out of the defensive zone, and staying in position in his own zone. If he’s healthy, he will get a shot to stay on the team.
Mark Fraser presents an interesting scenario. The Devils need what his attitude brings. He is the kind of guy that you don’t want to square off with in a net-mouth scrum. He WILL hurt you. Two seasons ago, he proved to have some offensive upside. If he can work with Larry Robinson to improve his overall game, he will play and most likely replace Colin White. The Devils are too soft of a team and Fraser brings a positive energy and a snarl to the ice.
Oliver Magnan Grenier
After seeing Magnan play several games this past season, it is obvious that the team will not need him if everything goes as planned. He can play if needed but does not present anything that sets him apart from the pack.
Tyler Eckford is another interesting scenario. The Devils had high hopes for him and it has never seemed to pan out. Expect him to sign a deal that will keep him as a depth defenseman in Albany… if he’s not sent to another city.
Up and Comers:
Not much is known about Burlon. He has just left college to sign a deal with the Devils because he feels he is ready. The Devils will give him a shot and he will most definitely land in Albany. He may get a game or two at the NHL level so the organization can see what he has to bring to the table.
Eric Gelinas is a big and physical defender. Now that he’s 20 years old, he will be in Albany next season. He showed in juniors at St. John that he can contribute offensively. He is certainly a player that the Devils want to be the future of the defense.
Here is what I think the defense will look like next season:
Anton Volchenkov-Andy Greene
Henrik Tallinder-Alexander Urbom
Colin White-Matt Taormina
Mark Fraser-Mark Fayne will be worked in.
Expect the Devils to take a good hard look at Joni Pitkanen, Kevin Bieksa, and
Up next: OFFENSE!