A little of this, a little of that, Part 1

No fun.Did I ever mention how much I hate the offseason?

Seriously bumming me out folks.

Alas, with an unusually long summer comes unsually long speculation, rumors, and hearsay about where this player may or may not go, or if that player will re-sign with his team or, well, not so much.

Of course, the Devils have their own respective fish to fry, but what about the other guys out in the free agent pool? Who might sign with the Devils, who will laugh in Louie Lams’ face, and who will beg to be part of this awesome franchise?

I like to ask questions.

…especially when there are so many questions to be asked.

Alas (oh that’s totally my word!), here are the potential A’s to aforementioned Q’s…from my standpoint, of course.

PATRICIA’S WISHLIST, PART I:

WE NEED A CENTER…

If Scott Gomez decides to leave the team, Louie will desperately need to sign a center. Of course, Gomez will easily dictate what will actually be available in the free agent pool. It is quite still fresh in my memory how a Mr. S. Niedermayer more or less f’ed over the team by waiting so long to sign with the Duckies, giving Lamoriello little room for free agent signings, because, well, the quality of defensemen left in free agency was quite minimal at best. Thank the man up above that Brian Rafalski waited oh-so patiently for Niedermayer to make his decision, otherwise our defense would have looked even more disgusting than it does now. That’s just downright scary.

Enough about Niedermayer, he’s ancient history now. Let’s assume, though, that Gomez does indeed sign somewhere else. Who’s actually available?

Logo dreams!

DANIEL BRIERE; CHRIS DRURY, BUFFALO SABRES
Both Sabres are unrestricted free agents come July, and it’s probably going to prove quite difficult for Buffalo to retain both men. I’d love nothing more than to have either player on this team, especially Drury, as we’d finally have a scoring center to, well, put the puck in the net. The Devils are actually quite weak in center depth, so this pipedream would really put a smile on my face. Unfortunately, I do think this would easily be just that — a pipedream and nothing more.
WILL IT HAPPEN: Not so much, but crazier things have happened.

TYLER ARNASON, COLORADO AVALANCHE:
I dream!Ah, another playmaking center. I’d like to have Arnason. He has potential. I know, I know, lately the Devils have kinda failed in the “he’s got potential, but he’s not playing up to it” area, but I could see Arnason becoming a solid player in the Devils system. My biggest concern with Tyler would be if the system ended up stifling his offensive development, which could easily aggrivate the lad. Last thing we need is another headcase. But hey, it helps that’s he’s an American…cause, Lou likes Americans, ya know?
WILL IT HAPPEN: It just might.

JOZEF STUMPEL, FLORIDA PANTHERS
Stumpel could be somewhat fun, couldn’t he? Age does play a factor here, as Stumpy is 34 now, but he could fill the vacated Gomez role nicely. I love his size, but he doesn’t use it too much to the best of his ability. Stumpel is also natural passer and also comes from the solid playmaker-mold, but injuries have played a role in his career and that’s the last thing we need — someone else to spend his days in longterm IR obscurity.
WILL IT HAPPEN: Doubtful.

BRYAN SMOLINSKI, VANCOUVER CANUCKS
He could be fun, seeing as he’d easily win most of the faceoffs he took, but he’s also kind of on the downside of his career. 35 years old and inconsistant in the scoring realm, Mr. Smolinski’s only true perk is his skill in the faceoff circle. I’d pass.
WILL IT HAPPEN: Probably not.
——
DEFENSE?

I’m going to go ahead and assume Brian Rafalski will be retained. As much as it pains me, we ultimately need him. However, I do think that if by some freak occurance that Gomez is signed, Mr. Rafalski might as well pack his bags. It’ll be one or the other, and Rafalski will probably win out.

Otherwise, it’s my hope that Rad Brad Lukowich is also signed. I worry a bit about Rad Brad — the pickings are slim for free agent defensemen, and he’s had a relatively solid year. He could potentially be snatched up by a defensively desperate team for more money than Louie Lams would be willing to give Rad Brad. That’s not to say Brad doesn’t deserve it, but let’s be honset here, he’s not a top two defenseman.

ANDY SUTTON, ATLANTA THRASHERS
This is merely to say that Rafalski isn’t retained. Sutton would never happen otherwise. He’s not all that great defensively, which seriously kills any thought to sign him, but he is adequate. He might be able to help out on the point for our struggling powerplay, I do absolutely love his shot. Otherwise, I’m not too sure how much of an upside Andy really has.
WILL IT HAPPEN: Rafalski leaves? Maybe. Rafalaski stays? Not a chance in hell.

SHELDON SOURAY, MONTREAL CANADIENS
He dreams!Ah, could we possibly see the return of Mr. Souray? Who knows, Lou does seem to like giving players a second or even third go around with the club, so it’s entirely possible. I think it could happen. His offensive upside is nice, but I do worry about his horrid -28 and 135 penalty minutes. That’s just a bit much, don’t ya think? Adding his size to the lineup would really be fun though. And adding Souray to the lineup would certainly boost our defense credibility, if only in name and nothing else at least.
WILL IT HAPPEN: I could see it, but money will play a factor.

NOLAN PRATT, TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
If Souray would boost our defensive credibility by name, Pratt would boost our credibility in talent. He’s not going to score any goals, that’s for certain, but he’ll get the job done in the defensive zone. He doesn’t do much wrong, as his game is quite basic, but there’s not too much wrong with that. He also has a nice 6’3″ frame to work with, but barely weighing in at 200 is somewhat concerning.
WILL IT HAPPEN: Eh. Don’t really know.

So, that’s enough wishing for now. Check back for part two, where I’ll plead and pray for backup goalies and scoring wingers. It’ll be fun, really!

Comments

  1. I like a number of your comments on “possible” acquisitions. While my heart is with the Atlanta Thrashers, my second favorite is the Devils. My only comment is on your take on Andy Sutton — for the Devil’s sake let’s really hope Rafalaski stays! If not, hopefully Lou is smart enough to stay miles away from Andy Sutton. To put it in printable terms, HE STINKS. I’ve watched him blow coverages, give up pucks in his own end, and seen that when he actually hits somebody its always a cheap shot. In Atlanta he’s known sarcastically as “Mr. Pirouette” or the 6′ 5”er that plays like he’s 5′ 6”. Let’s hope that he stays far, far away from a Devils uniform. Maybe the Redwings will pick him up!

  2. Patricia Greuter says:

    Roger — you know what, I agree about Sutton. Looking at the free agent pool, however, there ain’t too much going on. Andy isn’t a good defensive defenseman by any stretch. I liked him when he first came into the league, so I suppose that’s why I still try to look at the upside for him.

  3. Briere and Drury would both want more $$$ than Gomez probably so i highly doubt we would get one of them..

    Arnason is a hopeful.. But is he worth it? He only had a like 49 points last season.. Gomer (nickname for Gomez) had a terrible year yet he finished 11 points above (60 pts total) for the season.. Arnason only had like 3 more goals than Gomer.. and like i said, Gomer had a bad year.. yet he still was more productive.. Plus they’re the same age so its not like your getting a younger guy..

    Defensively, im sure Rafalski will re-sign.. the D will most likely look the same next season IMO, and i think Matty (Matvichuk) should get more playing time during the season (ignoring the cap room fact and if Matty is healthy..)

  4. I think that even with Rafalski gone, the Devs could still play 6 solid defensemen. Even the minor league defensemen aren’t all that bad (Fraser, Brooks, and Fahey did OK for rookies and the time spent in Lowell may have helped them get used to NHL play) and don’t forget about Dan “Your salaray is just too big for the NHL, but OK for the AHL” McGillis is still around, technically speaking.

  5. Patricia Greuter says:

    Nick —
    You know what, I really don’t think Gomez had all that bad of a year. He was merely just being Scott Gomez. Not a great year, but not a bad year. He doesn’t backcheck, gives up on the play unless he’s skating through the zone with the puck himself, and pretty much was stifled on a line that really didn’t have ALL that much production. Let’s be clear here, Patrik Elias was the one who had a bad year.

    I do think his offensive potential IS better than what he actually produced this past season, but with the Devils it really isn’t going to shine without someone to pass the puck to, you know? Elias was inconsistant as all hell and Gionta can only do so much. It would have been nice for Alexander Mogilny to have worked out the second time around, he and Gomez had terrific chemistry and they really found each other quite well. Once you get a winger who clicks with Gomez’ playmaking skills, you have a LETHAL line. The EGG line was great while it lasted, but I don’t think the chemistry was ultimately completely there.

    I’d like to have Arnason because I think he could really come into his own on the Devils. My fear with him, as already mentioned, is that a predominantly defensive system like the Devils may stifle him. If he’s stifled, he’ll easily get frustrated and give up — he does have a history of doing stuff like that. Good thing, though, I suppose, is that the Devils don’t have the seemingly immaculate defensive system of seasons’ past, so maybe a weaker system might actually prove to be a good thing some way or another…who knows.

  6. Patricia Greuter says:

    Aaron —
    Without Rafalski or a suitable replacement, this team is no longer a legitimate Cup contender. A defense that boasts Martin, Lukowich, Matvichuk, Greene, Oduya, and White as their top 6 is downright scary…and not in a good way.

    I haven’t been happy with White for the majority of this season, and Oduya had looked more and more terrible as the season progressed, plus Greene still has a lot of developing ahead of him and Martin, well, is good ENOUGH but still could be a helluva lot better. Couple that with a question mark in Matvichuk’s overall health and wondering if Lukowich will even re-sign with the team, there’s just too many holes to deal with.

    Fahey is done with the organization, that’s for sure, and Brooks is not an NHL player. Fraser, well, I can’t say too much about him, but I’m not sure that’s a good or bad thing — he was okay I suppose, but pretty forgetable in my eyes. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention to his skills and talent, you know?

    I just can’t see this team going anywhere with a top 6 like above mentioned, it would be average at best defensively and absolutely terrible offensively.

  7. Patricia-

    The only way the defensive core would be offensive at all is if it included Niedermayer. You said it yourself, the market for defensemen is thin at best. It could very well be that losing Gomez would result in better puck movement from the D-men (namely Rafalski and Martin) since they would be called on to move the puck up ice. Do I think that something’s lacking with the top 6 sans Rafalski? Yes. But only 3 seasons removed from losing Daneyko and 2 from losing Stevens and Niedermayer takes a toll on the core.

    At this point in time, I don’t see a worthwhile FA other than Souray but there’s a reason why Lou traded him away for Malakhov (I don’t know why, but there’s gotta be one). Souray’s discipline and defensive abilities aren’t necessarily up to par for the system, which is very reminiscent of a certain Devils defenseman who seriously needs anger management. While it would be convenient to say that Gomer’s departure is going to leave a lot of room under the cap, let’s not kid ourselves here. At his salary, Souray just isn’t worth it. This goes for a lot of defensemen who don’t produce points – I recall an article somewhere discussing how $1 million D-men were in for a rude awakening in the FA market.

    Even with the top 6 sans Rafalski, the Devils could go far. They have to work harder than they did this year, Marty has to be stellar (nothing new and his playoff performance won’t happen again), and positioning and stickwork are their biggest weapons. Physical play on D is a near impossibility when there’s more room in the O-zone and moving out of position for the big hit could turn into a missed assignment, but boards play is the key. If they can hold their ground, tie up loose pucks, and move them out to a waiting teammate, then the Defense would do its job just fine.

  8. thelastonealive says:

    Can’t wait to read the backup goalie wishlist, I’m really interested in how that whole thing’s going to play out.

    I’m thinking more and more that if we don’t keep Gomez, Lou needs to seriously persue Drury or Briere, preferably Drury. We need a true to life captain (I love Patty but he’s not a captain) and someone who can create plays on his own if he has to. I know we have our system but dammit, I just want someone who can put the biscuit in the basket.

    As for D, go easy on Oduya, I really think he’s going to really come into his own next year now that he’s had a full NHL season under his belt. Yes, he took dumb penalties and yes, he tapered off at the end, but the experience gained will help him play up to and above his early-season skills.

    I do hope Lou goes after Souray though we seem to like bringing up our own defensemen lately. I hope Mr. Chuk remembers how to play hard in Janaury and February, not just April & May. And yes, keep Luko, just for the Lukoil sponsorship tie-ins. And yeah, I guess he’s pretty good too.

  9. Patricia Greuter says:

    Aaron —
    My comment on Souray would be that he WAS traded away, what, seven years ago? Defensemen generally take a much longer time to develop than forwards do, and seven years makes a huge difference for Sheldon. 23 year old Sheldon and 30 year old Sheldon are completely different players. Crazy, eh?

    I worry about a Devils team without Rafalski and no replacement. You say they’d have to work even harder, which is entirely true, but there are a few players on this team that have a bit of trouble in that department. On the outside, we have a team full of workhorses, but then when you take a deeper look, there are some guys that seem to get down on themselves when things are tough and tend to fold when the cards are stacked against them. It’s definitely odd to see, as this team has faced a TON of controversy in the past and have seemingly always come out on top. We need that never say die mentality back, don’t we?

    If they have that idea in mind, then you know what, you’re right — the Devils COULD go far without Rafalski. I just wish the free agent pool was a bit deeper, because I still don’t feel all that comfortable with our D sans Rafalski/capable replacement.

  10. Patricia Greuter says:

    thelastonealive —
    I think its quite humorous that there are some fans out there suggesting that Eddie Belfour should be the Devils’ backup.

    …Ed Belfour.

    Are you kidding me?

    I just read that Mr. Eagle himself wants MORE money and declared himself a capable #1 goalie in this new era of the National Hockey League. Given Eddie’s colored past, I wouldn’t be surprised if he knocked down a liquor store in a crazed rage after being given a $1 mill contract offer by the Devils to play 5-7 games…10 tops.

    Could you IMAGINE? Wow.

  11. thelastonealive says:

    I would take Clemmonson over Belfour at this point, seriously. I have my preference(s) as to who I’d like to see backing up Marty next year but I’m going to wait ’til Part 2 comes up to see if I get to agree or argue.

    But now the mental image of Eddie Belfour, in full goaltender regailia, going apesh!t at the liquor store down the street from my former high school won’t leave my head. It’s a funny little scene, really.

  12. Patricia-

    There’s a reason why I’ve put leadership at the forefront of the To Do list for the summer. The most important thing the Devils need is someone who can step up, hold everyone accountable, and will them to all work at least half as hard as Sergei Brylin (which is a feat in itself).

    I honestly don’t care about the backup goalie situation just because Marty should be playing 68-72 regular season games a year instead of his 79 this year. Maybe I’m wrong, but Clemmensen isn’t that worthwhile from other teams’ points-of-view, but has been reliable when called on in the past. Granted he had some poor showings, but as long as he gets a few wins and pushes games to at least OT, then what more could you ask for? Would you really prefer the alternative a la Nashville (Vokun and Mason), San Jose (Nabokov and Toskala), or even Minnesota (Fernandez, Backstrom)? The last thing the Devs need is a conflict in goal.

    I agree with you that Souray in 2000 isn’t the same as Souray in 2007 and it could be that he was traded just to get experience for the playoffs in Malakhov (a poor choice if I may say so). Looking over the past years of defensive prospects, the Devs have traded away their fare share of hits (Jason Smith, Sheldon Souray) and misses (Kevin Dean, Ken Sutton). Hindsight aside, I am wary of picking up Souray because there could easily be a chance that he won’t make it in the Devils’ system. We’ve seen this a lot over the years – players who seem great in other systems fall short when they become Devils. We’ve also seen a lot of players who were either on their last leg or run out of town (Jason Arnott, Jeff Friesen) who turned it around by playing the system. At first glance, each Defensive FA has a big downside that has left me reluctant to look elsewhere for players.

  13. Belfour will never be a back-up goalie next year. It’s just out of the question, especially to him. And Aaron, you said the ONLY way the defense could be offensive is w/Niedermayer? That’s being pretty agnostic towards our future outcome. Neidermayer’s pretty much the best D out there right now, but the devs D aren’t a bunch of hopeless stifflers. I think we SHOULD keep Rafalski cause to be honest all we need is discipline. Our D wasn’t terrible and we were pretty decent up until the end of our season. I saw everybody on D get there share of Offense (i do think Madden should have been much more offensive though), even Cam Janssen scored a goal in his short time out there. There’s nothing we can do about stevens or neidermayer, they’re friggin gone, forget about em. Ken Daneyko i could care less about, I mean he’s OG if anything but it sure was a great time for him to finally retire( good thing we won the cup that year or who know’s how long he’d still be dwelling). Matvichuk none of us know about right now cause there was a very important reason he only came through in the play-off’s (they worked the hell out of him and there’s NO way he’s gonna do that all season, and w/his back can he play even half a season?). I don’t usually see us have repeats of bad playing style (although we did go out in the same fashion as last season). The most important factor we need to concentrate on is our damn coaching. W/out that discipline factor there, we’ll continue to see a lack of effort from whomever we decide to keep and or attain.

  14. i know Madden obviously isn’t on D but i mean he play’s like an offense D-man.

  15. JDunn-

    The point I was trying to make is that losing 3 core players in 2 years is tough to overcome and Rafalski and Martin, though they’re offensive and talented, are nothing special when going coast to coast (likely a side-effect of relying on Gomez to do it for the last few years). Their breakout passes are decent, though they were off the mark during the playoffs, but the solo run up ice isn’t there unless they develop it more. Maybe it’ll call for a shift whereby the breakout seeks an in-zone pass followed by a run up the ice, but as we’ve seen in the playoffs, this strategy was defended easily by the opposition.

  16. Patricia Greuter says:

    Aaron —
    You are completely right about leadership. I absolutely hated Elias as Captain last season, and I was adament about it. I know there are some people out there who think it’s unfair to rip on him for his leadership skills, but I just don’t think it’s there…or at least, it’s just not there yet.

    It’s hard, we were spoiled Scott Stevens — we’re talking about one of the best Captain’s in the history of the sport. It’s a tough role to follow. Sure, Niedermayer WAS a sort of interim Captain while Stevens had the concusssion problems, but that didn’t work out so well either as Niedermayer probably knew in the back of his head that he wasn’t going to be around much longer, which I think plays a role in Lou dangling the Cap’n carrot for Elias when HE was making HIS decision whether to stay or not.

    Who could fill the role? Madden? I think it’s possible, but even he had some issues especially during the playoffs fading into mediocrity. It just doesn’t seem like we have that spark of a player who can really take a group of men and get their gears churning when the going gets tough.

    In terms of a backup goalie, there’s no one I’d really want as a backstop to Marty, but I do fear that even Marty himself is starting to slow a bit down. He had an incredible season, but he fell apart in the latter portion of the season and his postseason play was inconsistant at best — some games he’d be absolutely wonderful, others he’d be brutal. Barring injury, I do have to believe that fatigue had to have played a factor, especially given the fact that he IS a bit older now. I’d like to see a backup goalie on this team who can at least get in a few more games and give Marty a few more nights off, at least on back-to-back games. I think Clemmensen is certainly capable, but I fear the coaching staff just doesn’t believe in his talent, lord knows Julien didn’t believe in the poor fella.

    Clemmensen could easily be retained, but I think it’s up to Lou on this one. Scott knows that his NHL career depends on what the Devils decide — no one else will sign him to an NHL contract, and if he wants to get ANY time in the big league, he prays Louie still wants him around. I don’t think anyone else on on the free agent list is worth it. It’s Doyle or Clemmensen.

  17. Its hard to put “Get New Leadership” on the top of your to-do list for the summer. When Scott Stevens joined the Devils after the Shannahan thing, no one really saw the kind of leader Stevens would someday be. Sure they saw potential in him but I am sure it was obvious from minute one. Elias was horrible as a captain this season and really for the second straight year we had no leadership.

    Last summer I was hoping Madden would get the nod because he is a hard worker but then how many captains in the league are on lines other than the top line?

    Truth is, not one really stepped up this past season. So I don’t think the answer is to find a new leader on the ice, I think the answer is to keep the C on Elias and find a coach that can guide, teach, light a fire under his ass and make him become a great leader.

    My vote – One of the Pat’s… Burnsy or Quinny…

  18. What up 2man?

    Starting with Souray, he would be an upgrade purely of size. Did you see how unwilling/outworked the Devs were in the corners during the OTT series? That needs to change and it starts with getting bigger as a team.

    I don’t think we’ll get Drury or Briere, but if they both re-sign in BUF, Derek Roy becomes expendable at Center as an RFA, so there’s that.

    Tyler Arnason? Please, he’s right behind Keith Tkachuk in the line at KFC.

  19. exactly what im sayin, it would be dumb to strip elias of his C for who, Brylin? Elias might start playing worse than last year at that point, i see him looking all sad a lot of the time. It’s all about the coaching, Lou better never pull that BS and try and be coach again cause it seemed a tiny bit promissing up until the play-offs. He doesn’t know when to count his losses and keeps @the same approach. Consistency is good but not when Ottawa had us on lock.

  20. Patricia Greuter says:

    Ron Wilson might be available…who knows…

  21. if buffalo somehow resigns drury and brier than we will have a for sure shot timonen, but i still feel like we should try and grab preissing (if rafalski’s gone).If we really want a leader on our team, Lou should talk to bitch ass Shannahan on coming back through, although i have no idea where he would be placed (he’s old and not a center). But if we’re not paying gomez then why not get brendan for one year since he’s so close to retirement anyways, let him bust a bourque w/jersey.

  22. whoops did i say Timonen i meant Teppo Numminen, but yeah timonen would be a better choice.

  23. I believe Shannahan publicly said that he was leaning towards playing next season and he’s only interested in playing in NY…

  24. Timonen is a no brainer especially with the impending sinking ship disaster in Nashville. I hope Lou goes aggressively after him.

    Hope the offseason is a good one for the Devs…they need it.