Running With The Devils - A New Jersey Devils Blog
Devils Qualify Clarkson, Fraser, Pelley and Eckford
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Tuesday, 29 June 2010 10:31

According to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record, Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello confirmed he sent one-year offers to potential restricted free agents David ClarksonMark FraserRod Pelley and Tyler Eckford.

Any restricted free agent not given an offer by 5 p.m. yesterday would become free agents on July 1.

The Devils’ also sent qualifying offers to Patrick Davis and Olivier Magnan-Grenier. The team decided not to make offers to Brad Snetsinger and Myles Stoez. Lamoriello expects to re-sign Stoez.


The biggest name on this list is Clarkson. Lamoriello has made it a priority to re-sign the young winger, and I’ve debated what Clarkson’s value, in dollars, would be to the team. I think he’ll end up pushing seven figures, possibly eclipsing $2 million per year.

Fraser and Pelley are more of a mystery. Fraser, who played in 61 of the team’s games this season, gave the Devils solid production night in and night out. Not known for his goal-scoring, Fraser scored three goals – all against the Pittsburgh Penguins – and also tallied three assists. With Mike Mottau potentially leaving via free agency, it’s possible Fraser can receive a slight bonus and a one-way contract. Pelley, who appeared in 64 games, has tried to find a regular spot with the Devils’ for the past two seasons. He’ll have to compete for a spot, but I’d be surprised if he wasn’t given a one-way contract.

Eckford, Davis and Magnan-Grenier will probably be given two-way contracts. All three had limited NHL experience this season, but Eckford is expected to contest for a spot on the Devils’ blue line this season. Davis and Magnan-Grenier will probably stick around Albany.

Fraser Photo Credit: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/Associated Press

Evaluating The Devils Draft - Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Tuesday, 29 June 2010 08:57

It’s been over two days since the Devils selected five players in the 2010 NHL Entry-Level draft. With no first round pick in the mix, it’s doubtful that we’ll see any of the 2010 draftees in Newark this season (except for prospect camp, which begins July 11). Many of the prospects are young, and they all have something to prove over the next few years. While it’s still too early to predict whether they will be a legend or bust, there is time to reflect on the picks. In this post, I’ll look at the two goalie selections the Devils made.

Coming into this year’s draft, the Devils organization had a huge hole it needed to fill – goaltending. After Martin Brodeur, the organization’s depth and skill took a sharp dive. The Devils hadn’t drafted a goalie since 2005, when the team selected Jeff Frazee. Since then, Frazee has played average hockey in the minors (14-16-0, 2.80 goals-against average, .910 save percentage), and the disparity between Brodeur and the rest grew larger. To address that need, the Devils selected two goaltenders – Scott Wedgewood (third round, 84th overall) and Maxime Clermont (sixth round, 174th overall). While both players won’t be expected to immediately produce, they will need to provide some depth at the goalie position in the organization.

Both Wedgewood and Clermont weren’t big name draft targets. Wedgewood, taken in the third round, didn’t even start for Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League this season. Wedgewood, ranked number 19 of 30 North American goalies, only played in 18 games this season. He put together a 5-9-0 record, posting a 3.26 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage. The 17-year old also played in four postseason games, going 1-0-1 with a 2.07 GAA and a .956 save percentage. During that overtime loss, Wedgewood made 70 saves. While Wedgewood was drafted higher, Clermont certainly could match his potential.

Clermont became the second goalie drafted by the Devils in the sixth round, 174th overall. The Montreal native was ranked one spot better than Wedgewood, checking in at 18 out of 30 North American goalies. Clermont appeared in 66 games for the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL, compiling a 2.81 GAA and .897 save percentage. The goalie only went 24-31-0, but was invited to participate on Team Cherry in the 2010 CHL Top Prospect game. Hockey’s Future describes Clermont as

"A solid goaltender, Clermont plays the angles well and shows a willingness to aggressively challenge opposing shooters. Controlling rebounds well and having a good glove, Clermont’s game will benefit as he gets quicker in the crease. Possessing good size, he has struggled at times tracking the puck, especially through traffic, another thing that he’ll need to improve upon."

Both goalies seem to be promising prospects. They will both need significant time to improve, but they’re both pretty young players. With Brodeur looking like he can play past the age of 40, Wedgewood and Clermont should get the time they need to improve. I don’t know if they’ll ever be big stars in net, but the preliminary analysis seems bright for the Devils’ new young goalies.

Wedgewood Photo Credit: Walt Democh

Recapping The Devils' 2010 NHL Draft Picks
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Sunday, 27 June 2010 10:04

Without a first round pick in this year’s draft, the Devils didn’t begin their draft until today. With six picks today, the team drafted two goaltenders and addressed some other holes within the organization. Here’s a recap on the Devils six picks from the 2010 NHL draft.

Second Round (38th Overall) – D Jon Merrill (U.S. National Team Developmental Program)

The Devils selected Merrill, a 6’3″ defenseman, with their first pick in the draft. Merrill is described as a smooth skater with good puck movement. Merrill had one goal and eight assists with the USNTP’s Under-18 team in 2009-2010.

When asked by Tom Gulitti what his strengths are, the defender said “Just being real responsible defensively, being consistent, making reliable, simple plays, but also contribute offensively and run the power play and things like that.”

Merrill, who was expected to be drafted in the first round, may have fallen to the Devils because of disciplinary issues. The defenseman was suspended for two weeks during the 2009-2010 season for an off-ice incident, where Merrill allegedly “harassed” a group of girls at his high school.

He also reportedly interviewed poorly during the combine.

Merrill will attend the University of Michigan next year, where he committed to when he was 14. The defenseman would like to play at least one year for the school.

Third Round (84th Overall) – G Scott Wedgewood (Plymouth, OHL)

With their third round pick, the Devils drafted 17-year-old goaltender Scott Wedgewood from Etobicoke, Ontario.

Wedgewood is the first goalie drafted by the Devils’ since the team selected Jeff Frazee 38th overall in 2005.

Wedgewood was ranked 19th out of 30 North American goalies. He served as a backup for Plymouth this season, going 5-9-0 with a 3.26 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in 18 OHL games. He appeared in four playoff games, going 1-0-1 with a 2.57 GAA and a .956 save percentage. The goalie caught the eye of scouts and general managers alike with a 71-save performance in a 3-2 overtime loss to Windsor during the playoffs. Wedgewood was forced into action because of the suspension of Plymouth starter Matt Hackett.

Fourth Round (114th Overall) – D Joe Faust (Bloomington-Jefferson, USHS)

With the 114th selection, the Devils drafted defenseman Joe Faust from Bloomington-Jefferson High School in Minnesota.

Faust, a 5’11″, 190 pound defenseman, originally committed to playing for Princeton this upcoming season. Faust, however, de-committed, and rumors are he is looking to join a Western Collegiate Hockey Association school closer to home.

Faust, an offensive-defenseman with a right-handed shot, scored 13 goals and totaled 27 assists in 25 games for Bloomington-Jefferson this season.

The Minnesota defenseman was ranked the 118th North American skater by the NHL’s Central Scouting Department.

Read after the jump for the profiles of the Devils’ sixth and seventh round draftees.

Clarkson Contract Talks Begin
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Thursday, 24 June 2010 10:33

The Devils began formal contract talks with potential restricted free-agent David Clarkson yesterday, according to Bergen Record reporter Tom Gulitti.

Clarkson is being represented by his agent, Pat Morris, in the talks.

With the hiring of John MacLean last week, Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello has been able to begin trying to sign free agents. Lamoriello would like to make an offer to all the team’s restricted free agents, but stressed the priority in re-signing Clarkson.

“[Clarkson is] a Group 2 free agent that we have to re-sign,” Lamoriello said to Gulitti.

Clarkson was excited to here that his signing is a priority.

“That’s good to hear,” Clarkson said. “I have a lot of respect for Mr. Lamoriello. All I can do it wait, but I’ve worn that Devils’ jersey for three and a half years. That’s the jersey I’ll always want to wear. I love playing there. The fans have been good to me. He’s been good to me. I really enjoy myself there.”

Usually, general managers and agents get together during the NHL draft, which begins this Friday (round one) and continues on Saturday (rounds two through seven).

Clarkson also expressed excitement for possibly playing under MacLean this season.

“I was happy to see John MacLean get picked as the coach,” Clarkson said. “That’s a positive thing I think for the organization. When he was (an assistant), he would pull me aside and help me and he was very understanding of the players. He’d go out and tell you what you could do better. But I just think he’s going to be a very good head coach and I thought it was a real positive when I heard the news. Especially having Larry Robinson back (as an assistant coach) was just amazing because he’s such a nice guy.”

If the Devils cannot re-sign Clarkson by noon on July 1, he then becomes a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. He would have until 5 p.m. on July 5 to file for arbitration. Clarkson’s restricted status allows the Devils would have the ability to match any offer from another team.

A few weeks ago, I put up a post debating what the worth of Clarkson would be to the organization. With the cap increasing to $59.4 million, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clarkson get a raise and a two or three year deal. I think Clarkson has some solid potential, but the ankle injuries derailed him last season. Lamoriello won’t break the bank, but I think we’ll see him get a slight increase from his $875,000 he made last season.

Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images

Brodeur Finishes Third (Third!) In Vezina Voting
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Wednesday, 23 June 2010 20:29

Martin Brodeur’s quest for a fifth Vezina trophy fell short tonight as Ryan Miller took home the Vezina at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

Miller recevied 23 first-place votes, three-second place votes and two third-place votes. Ilya Bryzgalov finished second with five first-place votes, 16 second-place votes and six third-place votes.

Brodeur finished in third place with one first-place vote, six second-place votes and nine third-place votes.

This was the first time Miller won the Vezina trophy. It’s the second year in a row an American goaltender picked up the trophy (Tim Thomas won last year).

It was pretty shocking that Brodeur finished third. Going into the night, I figured that Miller would win the award, especially because the voters would take into account his Olympic performance. The Olympics don’t matter to the vote, but playing that well will get noticed no matter the rules. I know Bryzgalov played well, but I believe Brodeur outplayed the Phoenix goalie last season. Maybe the whole “Devils defensive system” caught up to Brodeur this year. Either way, he somehow finished third.

Scott Niedermayer Retires
Written by Darren S   
Wednesday, 23 June 2010 19:11

If there was one event I could change about the New Jersey Devils over the last 5 seasons, it would certainly be the day that Scott Niedermayer decided to go play hockey in Anaheim. Without a doubt, that was a sad day for Devils fans but I can understand exactly why he did it. Even though he left NJ, Scott Niedermayer in my mind is a Devil through and through and will always be a part of this family. I wouldn't be surprised to see him involved with this organization at some point in the future. It seems too early for him to retire but if you look at the list of his accomplishments, there is little left to motivate him through an entire NHL season. It is a sad day for the NHL to watch a guy like Scott Niedermayer walk away.

Before I go into sharing some of my own memories of Scott's time in NJ, I wanted to touch on the subject of sending #27 to the rafters. There was talk around the internet yesterday that the Devils shouldn't retire his number because he didn't finish his career here. To me, there is a core group of New Jersey Devils that have have been extremely important to this franchise and deserve to have their number hanging in the rafters. Two members of that group already do have them up there. The other two members that make up this core are Niedermayer and Brodeur. (Insert your argument here that Elias is part of that core group as well). It doesn't matter that he left NJ to play elsewhere. What matters is that he was an important part of the 3 Stanley Cups that were won during his time here and that he was a leader on and off the ice and that I can sit here and honestly say that if he didn't play for NJ at all, we might not have 3 cups. Let us know how you feel by taking our poll over in the sidebar. Apply

After the jump, I look back at the memories I have of Scott Niedermayer during his time in NJ.

Devils Release 2010-2011 Schedule
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Tuesday, 22 June 2010 13:29

Today was a mid-year Christmas for most NHL fans. All 30 NHL teams released their schedules today, giving fans the opportunity to salivate over potential matchups and plan out what night they’re going to see their team.

The Devils will open their season October 8 at home against the Dallas Stars. It’s a bit of an interesting decision, matching a Western Conference opponent against an Eastern Conference opponent. I’d much rather see the team open against a division rival, or at least an Eastern Conference opponent. But those are the breaks. It’ll be the first game with John MacLean as the head coach, and Jason Arnott will re-introduce himself to Devils fans.

The Devils opening weekend continues October 9 against Ovie and the Washington Capitals in Washington.

The Devils longest homestand of the season will be four games, beginning on Dec. 23 against the Islanders. They then play the Maple Leafs (Dec. 26) and the Rangers (Dec. 29) before finishing on New Years Eve against the Thrashers.

The Devils longest road trip is six games, beginning against the Rangers on Oct. 24. The team then heads west, facing off against the Sharks (Oct. 27), Ducks (Oct. 29), Kings (Oct. 30) and the Canucks (Nov. 1). The trip concludes with a trip to face the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 3.

The Devils will not play a St. Patrick’s Day game at home this season. General manager Lou Lamoriello and principal owner Jeff Vanderbeek wanted to rotate in the infamous Devils’ retro jerseys, and this past season allowed them to make it holiday-appropriate. The two want the Devils to go retro once a season, but without a St. Patrick’s Day game, the team will have to find another game to wear it.


Here are some other schedule highlights:

Monday, October 11, 2010 – Penguins vs. Devils (1 p.m.)

In one of three afternoon games the Devils will play in 2010 – 2011, they face-off in a Columbus Day matinee against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils swept the season series against the former champs, helping propel the Devils to yet another Atlantic Division title. Many of these games were close last season, so I’d expect much of the same this season as well.

Sunday, October 24, 2010 – Devils vs. Rangers (7 p.m.)

The Devils and Rangers tied their season series, 3-3, and will renew their bad blood on a Sunday night. It’s always a fun time when these two get together, and I’m sure their first meeting of the season will be nothing new. Expect physical play and a low-scoring game.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010 – Flames vs. Devils (7:30 p.m.)

The Devils welcome back ex-coach Brent Sutter to the Rock in their game Nov. 24. Sutter left the Devils after the 2008-2009 season, citing his desire to be closer to his family. Shortly after, he took the open coaching position with the Flames. On March 6, Calgary defeated the Devils, 5-3, at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary.

Saturday, November 27, 2010 – Flyers at Devils (1 p.m.)

The Flyers and the Devils face off for the first time on Nov. 27. Last year, the Flyers won five of six regular season games against the Devils. Then the playoffs happened and, well…there’s no reason to bring up the past. Hopefully the Devils can beat the Flyers a few more times this season.


So that’s my take on the Devils 2010-2011 schedule. For a full schedule, click here.

The Case for Martin Brodeur's Fifth Vezina Trophy
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Monday, 21 June 2010 20:23

This Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Martin Brodeur will sit in the crowd at the NHL Awards, awaiting the decision as to whether or not he’ll win his fifth Vezina trophy.

I hope he’ll be working on his acceptance speech, because I believe Brodeur is the most deserving candidate for this year’s Vezina trophy.

The other two candidates, Ilya Bryzgalov (Phoenix Coyotes) and Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres) are both deserving candidates. Bryzagalov helped to turn around the Coyotes this season, posting career highs in every major statistical category. He shattered the franchise record for goalie wins, and his eight shutouts ranked second in the league. Miller was even better, helping lead Buffalo to their second division title in four years. The silver medalist won 41 games this season and collected a career-high five shutouts. No one will forget his play with Team USA, but that shouldn’t factor into the decision.

While both Miller and Bryzgalov deserve praise, none of them should walk away with the Vezina. Brodeur’s play this season makes him the most deserving candidate for that honor. Marty led all NHL goalies in games played (77), victories (45) and shutouts (9). He backstopped the Devils to another Jennings Trophy, the fifth of his career. Brodeur continued to destroy the record books, surpassing Terry Sawchuk for most career shutouts and topping Patrik Roy’s record for career games by a goaltender. He tied Roy for the record with his 13th 30-win season, and Brodeur completed his eighth season of 40 wins.

All of these numbers are impressive. But what’s more impressive is Brodeur’s advanced plus/minus rating. With his team on the penalty kill, Brodeur’s on-ice plus/minus rating stood at 5.69, ahead of both Bryzgalov (4.99) and Miller (3.79). At some of the most important times on the ice, with his team down a man, Brodeur stood taller than the other two candidates. In other categories, Brodeur similarly matched to both Bryzgalov and Miller, usually finishing second in the group.

But the most amazing thing about Brodeur? The fact that, as a 38-year-old goalie, he’s playing some of the best hockey in his career. He continues to look sharp, and I’d reason that Brodeur may have only lost a quarter of his step during his career. He continually makes spectacular plays, even with his increase in age. Brodeur has seen players like Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski leave, yet he’s produced spectacular statistics time and time again.

This season, Brodeur returned to the elite goaltending level we’re all used to seeing. His play was stellar, and the goalie deserves to be rewarded with his fifth Vezina trophy. Bryzgalov and Miller played well this season, but I believe Brodeur outplayed them and deserves honors as the top goalie.

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Debating The Devils Free Agents - Ilya Kovalchuk
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Sunday, 20 June 2010 15:38

As July 1st approaches, I’ll take a look at the two biggest free agents coming off the roster for the Devils this offseason – Paul Martin and Ilya Kovalchuk. I’ve already taken a look at Martin, stating my case as to why the Devils should keep the young blueliner. Today I’ll profile Kovalchuk, whose presence would no doubt fuel the Devils’ offense next season.

When Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello executed a trade on February 4 to bring Kovalchuk to the Devils, a shockwave of excitement ran through all Devils’ fans. Here was an extremely talented left-winger who was a proven goal scorer. Thoughts raced through the fans minds, picturing Kovalchuk complete the Devils’ offense and immediately improve their powerplay. I believed Kovalchuk could solve the Devils’ scoring woes, and his ability would help bring the Devils out of their funk.

But things didn’t quite work out that way. Kovalchuk didn’t vastly improve the powerplay, and we never really saw him flash his offensive brilliance. At the end of the season, word came from the locker room that players struggled with the way Kovalchuk played. The switch never seemed to click, and Kovalchuk played good, not great, hockey.

In order to give an in-depth look at Kovalchuk, I’ll use stats from Behind The Net to show his impact during 5-on-5 play, powerplay opportunities and on the defensive side of the puck. In looking at these stats, I’ll show that Kovalchuk is still an elite winger who should be pursued, for the right price, by Lamoriello this offseason.

Kovalchuk During 5-on-5 Play

As we all know, Kovalchuk is a strong offensive player. Last year’s statistics only serve to strengthen this point. Kovalchuk averaged 1.46 goals per 60 minutes, 1.45 assists (primary or secondary) per 60 minutes, and 2.91 points per 60 minutes. These numbers ranked first on the Devils by a longshot. The only other Devil close to his per game production was, not surprisingly, Zach Parise.

But it’s not only his game statistics that prove his offensive worth. In the on ice/off ice plus/minus ratings (explanation here), Kovalchuk once again showed his offensive force. His +0.90 shows Kovalchuk, when on the ice, provided a positive impact on his team’s offensive production. When off the ice, the team’s production slipped, as Kovalchuk’s off-ice plus/minus sat at -0.33. These statistics continue to support Kovalchuk’s offensive abilities, even on a struggling offensive team like last season’s Devils.

Kovalchuk During 5-on-4 Powerplay

After acquiring Kovalchuk, former coach Jacques Lemaire stuck him right out on the point on the first powerplay line. Eventually, the forward spent the entire two minutes out on the ice, trying to maximize the powerplay’s efficiency. But the plan never seemed to work. The team only connected on 16.53% of their opportunities after acquiring Kovalchuk, dipping from the 19.02% success rate before the trade. While that lack of success doesn’t squarely sit on Kovalchuk’s shoulders, his powerplay stats from this past season show he wasn’t as valuable as many predicted he would be.

While on the ice during 5-on-4 opportunities, Kovalchuk put up solid numbers, with the goals for per 60 minutes at 6.17 and the shots for per 60 minutes at 38.3. While these are good numbers, they weren’t even the best on the team. Parise outplayed him last season, with his goals for at 9.02 and his shots for at 51.3. Kovalchuk wasn’t even the best offensive player on the team with the man advantage. Whether it was a lack of comfort or a lack of unfamiliarity with the system, Kovalchuk just couldn’t bring the Devils special teams to the next level and make them great.

Continue reading for an analysis of Kovalchuk’s defensive performance and my take on whether or not the Devils should resign the dangerous left-winger.

Devils Re-Acquire Jason Arnott
Written by AJ Manderichio   
Saturday, 19 June 2010 19:10

The Devils made their first big splash of the offseason today, re-acquiring former forward Jason Arnott from the Nashville Predators for rookie winger Matt Halischuk and a second round pick in the 2011 draft.

Arnott, who served as captain of the Predators, centered the famed “A-Line” with Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora on his wings. That line produced the overtime game-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2000 Stanley Cup finals to clinch the Devils second championship.

With the addition, the Devils acquire a center for their second line. Arnott, who had 19 goals and 27 assists in 63 games last season, hopes to be reunited with Elias in his second stint as a Devil.

“One hundred percent. Absolutely,” he said to Tom Gulliti. “I’ll never forget the fun we had playing on the line together. He’s still an elite player in my mind. It would be fun to play with him again.”

Arnott has one year, $4.5 million dollars remaining on his five-year, $22.5 million dollar contract he signed with the Predators in 2006. The 35-year-old center had a no-trade clause, so he ultimately accepted the trade back to the Devils.

Devils’ general manager Lou Lamoriello hopes that Arnott can bridge the gap and allow prospect Jacob Josefson to gradually gain more responsibility with the team.

“Absolutely,” Lamoriello said to Gulliti. “It gives them tutelage and support. This does a lot for the youth and takes some of the pressure off Travis Zajac. He has a good shot and help us on the power play. It also gives us experience and a player who served as the captain in Nashviille.”

Matt Halishchuk, an oft-injured player, recorded one goal and two assists in 21 career games with the Devils. The Devils drafted Halischuk in the fourth-round of the 2007 draft.

The Devils traded Arnott, Randy McKay and a 2002 first-round pick to Dallas on March 19, 2002, in a deal that brought the Devils Joe Nieuwendyk and captain Jamie Langenbrunner. The team originally obtained Arnott in a deal with the Edmonton Oilers in 1998, trading Bill Guerin and Valeri Zelepukin.

When asked about his role on the team for this season, Arnott told Gulliti he wanted to help the team win and mentor the younger players.

“I just want to help them win again,” Arnott said. “My goal is to help them win and help out with the young guys. That’s what I want to do.”

Lamoriello said he doesn’t expect the trade to hinder the efforts to re-sign free agents Paul Martin and Ilya Kovalchuk. But the team now has 16 players under contract for $11 million dollars, so I’m sure we’ll see the impact of this trade on negotiations with the two free agents in the coming weeks.

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