Yesterday, the Devils took another step towards getting better for not only next year, but years in advance by announcing the extension of defenseman Andy Greene. As soon as word was released that Devils GM Lou Lamoriello had called for a 4 PM conference call Wednesday, speculation on what could be announced was endless. With an off-season filled with big name free agent acquisitions and smart cuts to the roster, the New Jersey Devils have shown themselves as an organization who will not tolerate missing the playoffs for a third straight season.
After a break out season, proving himself as not only New Jersey’s number 1 defender, but one of the most underrated players in the NHL, Greene agreed to a 5-year, 25 million dollar deal that begins after this year through the 2019-20 season.
Locking up Andy Greene does more than assuring a top tier defender on the roster for years to come. He, along with Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Ryan Clowe, Mike Cammalleri and Cory Schneider, can establish a “core” on the roster to build around for years to come. With all these players locked up until the 2017-2018 season, New Jersey will have quite ease for the next 4 seasons to not only contend for a playoff spot, but a look to make a deep playoff runs.
Evaluating the Devils “Core”, we see three fundamental groups that are covered, players who can score, players who can create offensive chances, and defense. Adam Henrique and newly acquired Mike Cammalleri will be the two in the core that will be called on to finish as both are proven goal scorer. The two other forwards in the group, Travis Zajac & Ryane Clowe, are smart offensive talents, and with them on the ice, the amount of quality offensive chances will be increased expondentally. Finally, New Jersey’s core is solidified by two top tier defensive gems in Cory Schneider and Andy Greene, who will anchor the teams defense for years to come.
It is no secret that the New Jersey Devils struggle to score, and a lot of work needs to be done before this problem is a thing of the past, but in locking up Adam Henrique and the addition of Mike Cammalleri, they are on their way. Adam Henrique shined this season, he managed to put 25 pucks in the net and finish the season leading the Devils in goals. Henrique netted 16 goals his rookie campaign , 11 in the following shortened season & 25 goals last year. Interesting enough, if Adam played 82 games that second season, he was on pace for for about 21 goals, which is proof he is a truly dangerous goal-scorer who has gotten better every year. The sky is the limit for how much better he will be, but we can be sure that he is locked up long enough for us to find out!
Mike Cammalleri was brought in on July 1st this off-season to immediately address the Devils need for players who can help New Jersey put the puck in the back of the net. Cammalleri is known throughout the league as an extremely potent offensive finisher as he has reached 25+ goal plateau 4 times in his 11 year career. With the first line of Zajac and Jagr looking for the final piece, Cammalleri could be the answer to that and thrive with all the opportunities line line mates will set up for him.
Goals are not just scored, they need to be set up by smart offensive minded players and then finished by the goal scorers. With two established scorers now looking for opportunity, Travis Zajac and Ryane Clowe will have the type of players who they can rely on to finish on the opportunities they will can create.
Travis Zajac, who agreed to an 8-year, 46 million dollar deal in January of 2013, is now locked up for New Jersey through the 2020-21 season. Zajac enjoyed a ton of success last season as he played along the top line and recorded 48 points, with 18 goals and 30 assists. This was his first full season since the 2010-11 season, and he looked great reaching 0.6 points per game, making it the fourth time in his career he averaged over 0.5 points per game. Now adding a player like Mike Cammalleri to the line of Jaromir Jagr and himself, look for his points to only get better as you imagine more of his scoring opportunities he sets up will end with the puck in the back of the net.
Ryane Clowe might be the most questionable member of the core due to injury, but if he can manage to stay on the ice, he might be one of the best offensive threats New Jersey has. In a previous article, Ryane Clowe’s play last season would have landed him in the top 3 on the team for goals, assists, and points if he was able to play a full 82 game season. Avoiding injury will be no easy task as in the shortened season 2 years ago, Clowe believed to suffer 3 concussions and it lingered to the beginning of last year as it kept him out for some time. If the Devils can protect #29, he could give back some much needed offensive help.
Defense has been the Devils identity for the last 2 decades. Winning 3 cups in the last 20 years, and only missing the playoffs 3 times, it has been a combination of great goal-tending and defense that has lead them to all the success.
The Brodeur Era is over in Newark, but with Cory Schneider between the pipes assures them that the Devils can again rely on a elite NHL goaltender for years to come. The deal reached this off-season announced that Cory will be a Devil at least until the 2021-22 season, as his 7 year 42 million dollar begins at the end of this year. Cory was on the short end of the stick this season due to lack of offensive help giving him 16 wins, but still managed to put up a GAA of 1.97, ranking third in the NHL. If New Jersey can score, expect Cory’s win total to see much improvement.
New Jersey is finally at the point where they are ready to rely on some of their young defensive players, like we saw in Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill, and Eric Gelinas last season. The Devils cannot expect for them to be NHL ready as soon as the season starts so having players on the roster to learn from will only benefit their growth. Andy Greene‘s extension provides New Jersey with that strong player they can build around, and with him locked in until 2019-20 season, the young defenders can learn from.
In the end, as the season is close to starting, lets not only look at this year but the next four years to come. New Jersey has 6 quality NHL talents locked up and will look to establish an new team identity as an organization who can compete for the Cup every year. Maybe next year another piece will be added, (Bobby Ryan anyone?) but Lou Lamoriello has done a great job of securing great players for his roster for years to come, giving us fans a reason to be excited not only now, but throughout the near future!
Comment below on your thoughts and what your take is on the Devils new core, are you a fan?