The New Jersey Devils have a depth issue at this point of the season. The team is currently riddled with injuries to key players and it does not seem they will be getting them back anytime soon. The Devils are as close to the cap as they can get without going over, but with some players eligible to be placed on LTIR, an avenue to add has presented itself, even if it is not the best avenue. Enter current free agent Corey Perry.
Let us get the elephant out of the room to begin with. Perry had his contract terminated by the Chicago Blackhawks on November 28th. The reason as to why he was let go by Chicago is still a little murky. There are rumors it was an alcohol-related incident to which Perry himself admitted he was seeking help.
Now we do not know what the situation was and we also need to consider the lack of faith the public community has in the Blackhawks. It is entirely possible that the situation was overblown and the Blackhawks overcorrected because of the lack of benefit of the doubt. Because of the Kyle Beach situation, the Blackhawks have no wiggle room for controversy in the public eye. Perry met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman to seek approval to return. However, Bettman says Perry did not need his approval because Perry was never in actual trouble with the NHL.
Throughout his entire career, Perry has been an absolute professional. The incident in November was the first time in his 19 year career he was ever in the spotlight for anything negative off the ice. It is a situation that the player seems to have moved on from, has gotten the help he needed, and still wants to play. No one should hold anything against him since he was never suspended or fined, nor even had a hearing on it. The money is on the Blackhawks overcorrecting.
How would he fit with the New Jersey Devils? For starters, he is a veteran forward who would come on the cheap. With the injuries to the lineup to players like Ondrej Palat and Timo Meier, the Devils have lost a little bit of what grit they had. Perry provides that and then some. He is a former league MVP who was a high goal scorer earlier in his career. However, he has had a career renaissance in a bottom-six grinder role.
The Devils absolutely need someone like Perry to play on the bottom line and occasionally slot up in the lineup. With the Devils' current injuries, they have to depend on players from Utica who may not be ready for the occasion or may be playing in roles they are not used to. Some sandpaper and veteran leadership are things this lineup has needed for the last few years now. While Tyler Toffoli has added some of that veteran leadership, the Devils still seem too soft.
Perry is a tough customer, and those have been relatively absent in the Devils' roster besides players like Brendan Smith and Mason Geertsen. However, one could argue that neither of those players should have been playing or should be playing as much as they were or did with the team. Perry is a very clear upgrade at forward to what the Devils currently have in the bottom six, which includes career defenseman Smith. Even if the Devils were fully healthy, Perry would still be on the roster and an every-game player.
The Devils have more of an incentive for them to add a player like Perry because of the laundry list of injuries. If the Devils start to fall out of the playoff race because of those injuries, the Devils can still easily trade Perry or keep him for when they are fully healthy and ready to compete. Bringing him in on a small contract is something the Devils could move on from at the deadline if they need to.
The major negative about bringing Corey Perry into New Jersey would be the possible backlash the Devils could get from the Blackhawks' contract termination. But with so few details, no suspension, and no clearance needed to come back, it would not seem to be a reason not to sign him. Unless something more significant comes out, Perry should be fair game.
When everyone becomes healthy again, Perry would be able to play solid fourth-line minutes and not feel the need to produce on a rebuilding team. After playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning the last few years, Perry deserves a couple more cracks at the Stanley Cup. New Jersey could provide that opportunity.