With every NHL season comes a new roster, in some way or another, regardless of how many players have left town. New forwards, defensemen, and sometimes goaltenders sign on, and from big-name players to fourth-line fillers, they all have some sort of impact. Some acquisitions pan out; others don’t. The signing of Brian Rolston three offseasons ago proved to be a hefty overpayment, which the Devils were finally able to clear from their payroll. However, in a much smaller move, the Devils traded for Bryce Salvador, who, when healthy, has been one of their most consistent and reliable defensemen. In this post, I will take a look at a new acquisition from every Atlantic division team. The best players might not necessarily be listed here; instead, I will try to pick a player from each squad who can provide more than some may expect. For this post, we will stick to forwards.
We’ll start with the defending Atlantic champion Philadelphia Flyers, who were fairly busy this offseason. When they traded center Jeff Carter to Columbus, a large part of their return package was right wing Jakub Voracek. The 22-year-old has only missed five games since his NHL debut three seasons ago, and compiled 14 goals and 32 assists in 80 games last year. Voracek, the 7th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft, figures to be behind Claude Giroux and (newly-acquired) Jaromir Jagr on the depth chart at right wing, and might have to compete with Wayne Simmonds (who the Flyers acquired in the Mike Richards deal) for playing time as well. However, if Voracek shows he can produce, the Flyers can always switch Giroux to center, making the former Blue Jacket a top-six forward. There is still much room for him to develop, and a chance to be mentored by a forward like Jagr could provide he and Simmonds with a tremendous opportunity.
For the Penguins, health might be the main concern; if the likes of Crosby and Malkin are healthy this season, this is a team that is strong enough to win a Stanley Cup. Despite these injury concerns, the Penguins went out and added a 37-year-old left wing with a history of back (and groin) injuries (okay, maybe I’m not making this sound too great). Steve Sullivan is the eldest player listed on the Penguins roster; in 44 games last year, the former Predator put up ten goals and twelve assists. Sullivan could provide the Penguins some valuable veteran experience as the year goes on, and could potentially be a top-six forward if health issues persist in Pittsburgh. For now, however, he would most likely be listed behind James Neal and Chris Kunitz on the Penguins depth chart, and could have to battle with Matt Cooke for a spot on the third line. Regardless, when healthy, Sullivan can produce, and should give the ‘Pens yet another quality forward.
In Long Island, Garth Snow was not too active this offseason, but did manage to sign center Marty Reasoner to a two-year deal. Last year with the Panthers, Reasoner tallied 14 goals to go along with 18 assists. The 34-year-old has played with five NHL clubs previously, and could be of large help to his sixth. The veteran provides much experience to play along all of the young forwards the Islanders have, and could serve as a mentor to some of them while centering a high-potential unit. Reasoner has a good chance to be the second-line center behind John Tavares on the Isles’ depth chart, and could play alongside the likes of youngsters Michael Grabner or Kyle Okposo.
Our arch rivals made a move that killed me inside. The Rangers, looking for a solid fourth-line center, went out and signed former Devils’ Stanley Cup hero Mike Rupp. His impact could be large in New York, as players like Brandon Prust and Jody Shelley have previously been very important to the ‘Rags in backchecking on their latter lines. Rupp can also light the lamp occasionally; as a Penguin, he registered a hat trick against the Rangers two seasons ago. The former Devil served 124 penalty minutes last season, and should give the Rangers a stalwart on their fourth line.
Finally, to our Devils; while it wasn’t too busy an offseason, Lou went out and acquired former Atlanta Thrashers left wing Eric Boulton, among others. The 35-year-old enforcer only put up ten points (including six goals) in 69 games; however, if the ‘Devs need him to, Boulton should prove to be a more-than-servicable fourth liner, who can use his stick and his body to give the team momentum. Boulton is an experienced fighter, and his veteran presence could not hurt to have in the locker room. He might have to compete for time in the lineup, however, with the likes of fellow enforcer Cam Janssen, among others.
There were various other moves made by each of these teams, including the Penguins’ acquisition of Arron Asham; the former Devil will now have played for every Atlantic division team except the Rangers (this can still change, of course). Each signing has filled a void; whether it be Brad Richards as a first-line, puck-moving center or the aforementioned Rupp as a physical fourth-liner, they will all add an important element to their new team. I am surely looking forward to seeing many of these new faces play the Devils six times a year (except for the former Game 7 hero, obviously), as they could each add something to an Atlantic division rivalry.