With the month of August in full swing, it means two things for the hockey community: the dog days of summer have begun, but on the flipside, we’re another month closer to the start of training camp. Since our first edition of Devils Army Blog’s Writers Roundtable came out, the New Jersey Devils have been in the spotlight quite a few times. Lou Lamoriello’s departure was just the beginning of a busy stretch of days for general manager Ray Shero. He locked up defenseman Adam Larsson to a long term contract extension, brought in a new assistant general manager and director of amateur scouting, and severed ties with veteran forward Dainius Zubrus.
It’s certainly a lot for our writers Alex Chauvancy and Brett Minieri to weigh in on, but with hockey-related news (let alone Devils news) likely to be scarce in the coming weeks, summarizing everything the Devils have recently accomplished is a good way to kick off this month’s first edition of our writers’ collective thoughts and insights.
In the wake of Lou Lamoriello’s shocking move to Toronto, Ray Shero signed defenseman Adam Larsson to a six-year $25 million contract. What’s your favorite part about the 22-year old’s new deal?
AC: There’s a lot to like about Adam Larsson’s new deal. He is signed through 2020-21 season where he’ll be 28 years old by the time it ends. The Devils will most likely get some of his most productive years in this deal and at a cap hit of $4.167 mil, this could be a great deal for the Devils if Larsson continues his upward trend and becomes a top pair defenseman.
BM: Love this singing. Larsson showed last season (with the help of Stevens) that he’s capable of performing like the #4 overall pick he earned. This deal works for me on two fronts; It’s staggered—so he’s not rushed into playing like a $5MM player just yet. He gets paid commensurately with his potential growth while keeping the Devils cap friendly. Also, he’s still very young and being paid for his potential as opposed to what he did in the past (as many of these questionable free agency deals wind up turning out). Pretty fair overall.
Shero brings in Tom Fitzgerald, another Pittsburgh disciple as his new assistant general manager. He’ll oversee the operations in Albany in his new role, similar to what he did in Pittsburgh. What’s one improvement you hope to see occur with the A-Devils under Fitzgerald’s watch?
AC: It’s hard to say because I don’t have much knowledge of what the A-Devils do on a day-to-day basis, but I would like to see Fitzgerald put in more coordination between the AHL and NHL clubs. It would be nice to see the A-Devils implement a similar system to what John Hynes will be running in the NHL. It would make for a more seamless transition for players who are ready to make the jump from the AHL to the NHL.
BM: Another unsurprising move. New regimes come in and hire people who they’re comfortable going to battle with. Tom Fitzgerald was a respected player, paid his dues and has both coaching an management experience. Should be a good addition. Albany is a tough situation…it’s always a balance. If players are performing at a high-level, they should be pushing for spots on the big club. If they’re not, it’s generally a sign of a mediocre system. I’d simply like to see our new “system” be implemented at its roots. So when players do have the chance to make the often-difficult jump to the NHL, it’s as seamless as possible.
The players to utilize the buyout period on that arose after re-signing Larsson most likely came down between Dainius Zubrus or Tuomo Ruutu. What advantages are there to keeping Ruutu over a tenured Devils veteran like Zubrus?
AC: Ruutu is younger and more physical than Zubrus. Zubrus’ production had dropped significantly in recent years, but so has Ruutu’s. I think the reason for keeping Ruutu is that he’s more physical and is better suited to playing a bottom 6 role than Zubrus was. He gives the Devils a little more than Zubrus was at this point in their careers and considering their production is about the same, it makes more sense to keep the younger player on their roster.
BM: Tough question…I suppose you could argue Ruutu is only a few years removed from a 57 point season an that he’s a little younger while playing a similar style game. But Zubie was a good soldier, well respected and a leader on the team. Zubrus’s style always fit well in the playoffs—and since that seems like wishful thinking at this point, I guess Shero & Co. went another route. He’ll me missed.