Development Camp for the New Jersey Devils has concluded, after which Ray Shero was interviewed by members of the media and gave some pretty interesting insight into the Devils offseason. Below are three main takeaways from that interview about what exactly Shero has been up to and the plans he is willing to share right now.
Shero did Try to make moves
Prior to July 1, the Devils owners gave Shero full permission to spend all the way up to the cap to improve their team. Shero historically is not a big spender in free agency, and a lot of moves he made for players like Sami Vatanen, Marcus Johansson, and Taylor Hall have happened via trade. Shero did try to acquire James Van Riemsdyk, stating that they only met and spoke with his camp, and did not get too specific about the exchange’s details. Shero also mentioned how the he very much wanted to keep Patrick Maroon, and even offered him more money than St. Louis Blues, but Maroon ultimately decided to go home. Bottom line is Shero did try to make moves in free agency, but did not go after everyone (as the hockey blogosphere speculated), like when he mentioned how he never spoke with notable UFAs like defenseman Calvin de Haan.
Cap space remains the Devils’ best weapon and investment
The Devils had the third-most amount of cap space going into free agency, and still have a lot at their disposal. As of now, it looks like the Devils will just meet the cap floor after arbitration hearings concluded, and restricted free agents officially sign their qualifying offers. This is a tremendous asset for the Devils both now and the long run. There were rumblings about the Devils possibly being a third team in a three-team deal involving the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning. However in a situation like this, something similar could happen with any team currently hovering around the salary cap looking to improve, but must move salary. This could obviously benefit the Devils and help acquire assets at a discounted value. The other reason this cap space is the Devils’ greatest asset is because Shero is not a fool. Shero is very much aware he will soon need to extend core players like Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier, and Will Butcher (just to mention a few). Shero knows a core will be established that will be costly for him to keep together. This is another reason why Shero has not thrown around money to big free agents for short term improvement; he always has the big picture in mind.
Addition by subtraction
The Devils lost players through free agency like John Moore, Brian Gibbons, Patrick Maroon, and Michael Grabner. While some may look at this, along with the lack of “major” moves by the Devils as a sign of a disastrous offseason, that could not be further from the truth. The fact is every single one of those players were expendable. They all contributed well for the Devils, but that doesn’t mean the team’s roster has been decimated this offseason as some believe. The Devils have talent and youth in the pipeline that need opportunities to prove they can contribute at the NHL level. John Moore signed a five-year deal with Boston, but that now leaves room for young blue liners like Mirco Mueller and Steven Santini to come into camp and compete for a consistent lineup spot. Mueller’s play improved as the season progressed, especially after returning from injury. Santini is still a hopeful defensive prospect that needed more grooming last year. Grabner did not contribute as many would have hoped and signed with Arizona. Gibbons was a solid player, but relished an opportunity to sign a one-way contract with Anaheim. These departures open up spots for noteworthy prospects like Joey Anderson, Michael McLeod, John Quenneville, Blake Speers, and even dark horse or diamond-in-the-rough candidates to make the team. A lot of the Devils’ young prospects are beginning to reach the point where they are going to have to take the next step, and in doing so, could make up for what the Devils lost in free agency.