A lot has changed from last season for the New Jersey Devils. In 2017-18, they found themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference for most of the season. That resulted in the team’s first playoff appearance in six years. Fast forward a calendar year and the team has sunk from its heights a short 12 months ago.
Some things have changed for the Devils, like their moral, expectations, and place in the standings. What hasn’t changed much is their actual roster. Surprisingly, there was very little change over the summer. In fact, there was so little change, that general manager Ray Shero was often criticized for his lack of free agency signings. While there may not have been many (if any) additions, there were a few departures. Now that we’re firmly planted in the 2018-19 season, let’s take a look at the Devils we lost and where they are now.
Disclaimer: These are players lost during the OFFSEASON, and not lost due to a midseason trade. So if you were expecting a nostalgic Adam Henrique montage, I’m sorry.
Moore had been a staple on the Devils blue line for the past few seasons but left the iron gridlock of Newark, New Jersey behind for Boston Harbor this off-season when he signed with the Bruins. Although he was an average defenseman at best during his time in New Jersey, fans still hoped Shero would at least entertain Moore an offer because he was among the Devils top defensemen due to their weakness at the position. This season has seen Moore find the scoresheet five times with one goal and four assists so far with the Bruins. Compared this to his last season with the Devils, where he played a full season with seven goals and 11 assists for 18 points. The Bruins themselves are in a pretty good, with a record of 17-10-4 for 38 points and fourth in the Atlantic.
If for anything else, the Devils miss him for his overtime heroics. Moore’s most memorable moments in a Devils contest came with his game-winning goals in overtime. Since he left, the Devils are 0-6 in games they’ve played passed 60 minutes.
One of the biggest surprises for the Devils last year was the emergence of Brian Gibbons. When the career AHLer was named to the opening day roster, fans were confused. But then he emerged as the teams leading goal scorer for a short time and was credited with scoring the Devils first 3-on-5 shorthanded goal in team history. A broken thumb sidelined him and he never regained his early scoring touch, but his one season with the big club was by far the most successful season of his career.
In the offseason, Gibbons hit free agency and left the Devils for the Anaheim Ducks. It was also the first one-way contract of his entire career. Gibbons couldn’t find his scoring touch with the Ducks, scoring only 2 assists. The Ducks are in a successful position, though, with a 16-11-5 record for 37 points, which has them in third in the Pacific Division.
If there was one player that Devils fans weren’t upset about parting ways with, it was Michael Grabner. Grabner holds a weird place in Devils history, being the result of the first ever trade made directly between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers, who had entered a rebuilding phase shortly before the trade. Grabner was well on his way to being a 30 goal scorer with the Rangers, with 25 goals at the time of the acquisition. After his move across the Hudson River, he only scored two goals with three assists and found himself benched, even during the playoffs. Devils fans considered the trade (a second-round pick for Grabner) a bust, while Rangers fans were thrilled.
In a surprising, but not shocking move, Grabner signed with the Arizona Coyotes in the offseason on a five-year deal. Some assumed a Rangers reunion was in the works with, but he instead chose a rarely full desert arena and spot on a perennial bottom of the barrel NHL team over the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. Grabner has a decent six goals and five assists for 11 points. The Coyotes are getting back to NHL relevancy with a record of 13-14-2 and 28 points and sit in seventh in the Pacific Division.
If there was one player that Devils fans would have begged Ray Shero to hold onto, it was Patrick Maroon. Acquired at the trade deadline from the Edmonton Oilers, he immediately gelled with the team. He had a scoring touch and a physical sense of play that pushed the team into the playoffs. In just 21 games he became a fan favorite. The fact that he scored three goals and 10 assists for 13 points helped as well. If nothing else, Maroon’s production made up for the lack of expected production from the other trade deadline acquisition in Michael Grabner.
Although the Devils made it clear they wanted to carry a reunion into the new season, Maroon left the Devils and went to the St. Louis Blues. Maroon is from St. Louis, and has a son who lives there, so it’s a move even Devils fans who grew to love him could understand. This season he has one goal and seven assists for eight points. Meanwhile, the Blues are struggling with a record of 11-14-4 for 26 points. That puts them in sixth in the Central Division, just ahead of the lowly Chicago Blackhawks.