The New Jersey Devils are in the midst of a massive overhaul. The team is searching for an identity. As the season comes to a merciful end, the team can look forward to adding some new pieces while dropping others.
The team is desperate for offense. In the past few offseasons, names such as Kyle Palmieri, Jaromir Jagr and Taylor Hall have been brought in to try and fix this problem. Despite this, the team remains one of the worst teams offensively. They barely manage the 2.29 goals per game the stats sheet say they do. However, at various times, the offense has shown signs of life.
A name the Devils could look at add is veteran Kris Versteeg. The former two-time Stanley Cup champion could add 15 goals to line up, which is more than one can say for any of the Devils bottom six. At age 30, a two or three-year deal isn’t out of the question. He was supposed to head to a Swiss team this past offseason, so why couldn’t the Devils steal him if no the team wants to sign him?
The team can look to lose a name like Devante Smith-Pelly. He was acquired in a trade with the Ducks last season and scored more goals in fewer games with the Devils. While he had a decent remainder of the season with the team that year, he has been abysmal since. Not saying that a person on the fourth line should be top of the team in scoring, but at least seven to 10 goals would be nice. Smith-Pelly has failed to deliver. Now he might have one more year left on his contract, but the Devils would be wise to cut their losses.
While the offense has been bad, the defense brings shame on the former dominate Jersey defense squads of the past. Adam Larsson was on the top pair last year and he’s only a top four defensemen at best. Even team captain Andy Greene, who does all the little things right, can produce on the scorecard.
Cody Franson isn’t a name you would think of that could help, but he could be a sleeper. He is a good offensive player, that could help out the power play with his slap shot. However, the downside is he is a sluggish skater, especially in the defensive zone. A better option would be Yannick Weber. Nicknamed the Swiss Army Knife, he can do it all. He is the textbook definition of a two-way defenseman. Good offensively, as well as defensively.
The team can look to part ways with Jon Merrill. Merrill is an AHL defenseman at best. He turns the puck over, pinches too much for someone lacking offensive skill, and is a headache to Devils fans. Like Smith-Pelly, he has one year left on his contract. Either the team allows him spend his last year in Albany quietly, or somehow convince another team to make him their problem.
If you think the Devils are bad five on five, you should see them a man up. Last season, the power play was phenomenal. It was ranked ninth, which is 10 places higher than where they are now. The team has given up the fourth most shorthanded goals with eight. That means every 5.25 goals the team scores on the power play, they give up a shorthanded goal.
A really bold move to be for the Devils to convince Patrick Eaves to leave the Ducks and come to Newark. He is having his best season on the ice and can help a Devils team ailing for offensive production. He was just traded to the Ducks from the Stars last month, and joining the Devils would be a fresh start for the journeymen. If he can score six more times this year, and signs with the Devils in the offseason, it would mean another 30 goal scorer on the roster.
The 1-3-1 structure of the power play has to go. It can be attributed to the number of shorthanded goals the team gives up. When there is one defenseman back to counter a two on one, there no wonder they are in the top five in shorthanded goals against. If they are looking for structure, perhaps the 2-1-2 might be a viable option for the Devils. It puts two men down low and provides two defensemen back to avoid a turnover becoming a costly one.
The Devils need to make a lot of changes if they are to make it back to the promised land. Whether it be offense, defense, special teams or even coaching, changes are coming. While they might not produce the result desired next year, their time will come.