The New Jersey Devils’ championship success was always defined by smart drafting, shrewd trades and a team first mentality. The Devils had seen many fan favorites leave via free agency, yet always had someone come in younger and cheaper who could get the job done just as well.
Devils teams over the years had a plethora of talent in their system that helped them make deep runs on route to the Stanley Cup. Everything that worked out in general manager Lou Lamoriello’s favor for nearly two decades stopped working towards the end of his tenure with the club.
The team stopped drafting high end NHL talent, saw core players leave without being replaced in house and uncharacteristically started dipping in the unrestricted free agent pool to replace NHL talent on the roster. Free agency is a lot like Netflix’s ‘Love Is Blind,’ where you are just looking to get a return on an investment. For the Devils, the return on their investments included trades, abrupt ‘retirements,’ and buy outs.
Richard Matvichuk’s signing of 4 years for $7.2 million came at an odd time with Scott Stevens’ uncertain playing future battling a concussion and a looming lockout on the horizon. Matvichuk would have been a welcome fixture to the blue line pre-lockout, as he was a pillar on a highly touted Dallas Stars defense. Post lockout is where this deal became an issue.
The ‘New NHL’s’ emphasis of offense, speed and youth was the exact opposite of what Richard Matvichuk could bring. The 32 year old relied on positioning and physicality, and less on speed and puck movement.
His first played season in New Jersey was palatable, however his second season saw him battling a back injury which forced him to miss 81 games. The third year saw him playing in the AHL. Matvichuk’s days as a Devil were more than forgettable.