What Does Eric Gelinas’ Contract Situation Mean for the Devils?


With one week remaining until the Devils report to AmeriHealth Pavilion at Prudential Center for the beginning of training camp, a key component of New Jersey’s defensive blueprint remains unsigned, and there are no signs indicating that will change any time soon.

Following the departure of blue-liners Anton Volchenkov and Mark Fayne this off-season, second-year defenseman Eric Gelinas was in line to take over an every day role in New Jersey’s defensive corps. The 23 year-old entered this off-season as a restricted free agent, and the Devils tendered him an offer that would ensure that they retain his rights. But several months have passed since this took place, and no progress has been made on re-signing Gelinas, leaving a major question mark for the Devils defensive unit.

Rich Chere of The Star-Ledger on Tuesday reported that Devils’ General Manager Lou Lamoriello had this to say regarding Gelinas’ contract situation:

"“He’s not signed yet. Everybody is signed but him. It will become an issue when training camp starts. We certainly want him here and hopefully something will work out prior [to camp opening], but there is nothing we can do about it. It’s part of the game.”"

Lamoriello added that he does not have an answer as to whether or not Gelinas will report to camp without a new contract.

So what does this mean for the Devils moving forward? Let’s explore three questions that have emerged as a result of the Gelinas situation:

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What are the chances Gelinas doesn’t sign by October 9?

It seems illogical that Gelinas and his agent Gilles Lupien would play hardball with the Devils front office considering that the 2009 second-round pick was benched at times last season for poor defensive play, but it appears that is the case here as Lupien continues to point the proverbial finger at Lamoriello.

“It’s always money, it’s always money and [Lamoriello] loves to play with the power. That’s what everybody knows,” Lupien told The Record‘s Tom Gulitti, adding “It’s only the amount of money” that is preventing the sides from reaching an agreement.

Despite Lamoriello’s hopefulness that Gelinas will attend camp despite his contact situation, it appears unlikely that would happen, as Lupien told Gulitti there is “no chance” of that happening.

Without having a full training camp and preseason under his belt, it would be unlikely that Gelinas begins the season in New Jersey, leaving a void in the Devils’ defensive unit.

With the regular season set to begin in just over four weeks, it is very possible that New Jersey heads into the 2014-15 campaign minus Gelinas. Should the situation become a prolonged dilemma, the Devils and Gelinas would have to reach an agreement by December 1 in order for Gelinas to appear in the NHL at all this season.

Who would fill Gelinas’ role on the blue line?

While there was no guarantee that the 23 year-old would be a top-six defenseman for Peter DeBoer come October 9, the assumption was that a spot would be his to lose. But with this latest development, the Devils must create a contingency plan. Will they choose somebody out of their plethora of defensemen to be a mainstay on the blue line, or will they take a committee approach?

Sep 16, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils defenseman Peter Harrold (10) skates with the puck during the first period of their game against the New York Rangers at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Captain Bryce Salvador, Andy Greene, and Marek Zidlicky are all locked in to their roles within the Devils’ defensive unit. Gelinas, along with fellow second-year player Jon Merrill and 2011 first-round pick Adam Larsson were assumed to round out the top six. Take Gelinas out of the equation, and the Devils are left with a viable option in Peter Harrold (pictured right) to fill that void. Additionally, 36 year-old defenseman Tomas Kaberle will be in camp on a tryout basis come September 17, Chere confirmed on Tuesday. The former four-time all star should receive a prolonged look now that Gelinas’ status is in question.

Do any of the Devils defensive prospects have a shot at winning a job?

There have been rumblings during the course of the off-season that Damon Severson would have a chance to win a job during training camp, regardless of the Gelinas situation. With Gelinas’ status now in question, however, the likelihood of Severson legitimately competing for a spot greatly increases. Severson scored 15 goals last season with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL.

During Devils rookie camp in July, Peter DeBoer said that Severson is “one of those guys,” according to Gulitti. He added that “there’s going to be an opportunity for young players, especially on defense this year, and he’s one of those guys that has to come into camp and find a way to grab a job.” 

Prospects Brandon Burlon, Seth Helgeson, Raman Hrabarenka, and others will also be in camp competing for a spot.

How will the Devils address the Eric Gelinas situation? Vote in our poll below and join the conversation in the comments section.