Maybe I have been wrong about the Kovalchuk contract, and he's totally worth that much money, and a significant chunk of a cash-strapped team's operating budget. As soon as he got hurt (in combination with a Marty Brodeur injury) this team completely collapsed. Evidently leaving Kovalchuck on the ice for half the game to coast around and pick his spots to turn on the boosters is a winning strategy in the NHL. This is nothing new for Ilya, but forgive me if I question how many more years he can sustain 26 minutes of ice time per game.Or does that much ice time increase his fatigue to the point where he is at a greater risk of injury?
Adam Henrique had a forgettable season, with a 40% decline in his points per game production from last year. I can't say that I watched enough Devils games to adequately explain why Henrique took a step backwards, except to say that it happened. Blame it on the loss of Parise, blame it on the shortened season, blame it on the rain, I don't care. He fell from 35 assists in 74 GP to 5 assists in 42 GP. He stopped setting up goals, while his own goal scoring rate remained reasonably constant. He is a centerman who loses more face-offs than he wins, and he's a restricted free agent this summer.
Preseason Rank: 14
Midseason Rank: 9
Final Rank: 22
GM Grade: D
1st Star: David Clarkson
2nd Star: Ilya Kovalchuck
3rd Star: Patrick Elias
UFAs: Patrik Elias, Dainius Zubrus, David Clarkson, Steve Sullivan, Alex Ponikarovsky, Tom Kostopoulos, Marek Zidlicky, Peter Harrold
RFAs: Jacob Josefson, Matt D'Agostini, Adam Henrique, Andrei Loktionov
Best Contract: Andy Greene 2 more years at $3M
Worst Contract: Travis Zajac 8 more years at $5.75M
What I said about them in preseason: Another team that only got worse in the off-season, Brodeur is another year older, and they lost Adam Oates and Larry Robinson from their bench. Sorry Devils, you are taking a step backwards this season, despite your recent appearance in the finals. It will be at least a decade before the Devils make it to another final.
Looking at this team's free agent list, Lou Lamerello is going to be very busy this summer, and is in a position to lose some very important players. Nobody outside that front office will know what Lou's internal budget it, but it's safe to assume they won't be spending to the cap given the team's financial woes. The smart money says many of these players will find new teams, unless many of them are willing to take discounts to play for a non-playoff team. Yeah right. Good luck with that. There are dark times in the near future for the New Jersey Devils fans.