While Ray Shero continues to retool the organization with promising prospects and an arsenal of draft picks in this June's NHL Draft, the Devils general manager has also spent the past two years adding key building blocks through strategic signings and trades. Not only have these players come to New Jersey to be part of a team that is quickly shaping up for long-term future success, but they have also paid immediate dividends on the ice with strong performances in their Devils' tenures so far. As Shero continues to lay the foundation, the following have proven to already be impact players.
Less than two months after becoming the fourth general manager in team history, Ray Shero orchestrated a deal with the Anaheim Ducks to bring Kyle Palmieri back to his home state of New Jersey for two draft picks. An energetic and gritty forward, with a nose for the net, Palmieri came to the Devils in the final year of his contract, having actually never cracked the 15-goal mark. That quickly changed during the 2015-16 season, when the Montvale-native played every single game and notched a career-high 30 goals and 57 points to share and hold sole possession of the team lead in both categories, respectively. Following the best season of his career, Shero rewarded the then 25-year-old winger with a five-year contract extension. Palmieri, in turn, did his part during the 2016-17 season to repay Shero's faith in him, by registering 26 goals and 53 points in 80 games, to lead the team in goals for the second straight year and tie for the team lead in points. In just two seasons, it's clear that Kyle Palmieri has established himself as a core member of the New Jersey Devils, and will be looked upon to help lead the offensive charge.
At only 24-years-old, John Moore had journeyed to three NHL teams before Ray Shero gave him a home in New Jersey during the summer of 2015 with a three-year contract. The young, fleet-footed defenseman had shown flashes of strong play in his own end, with a knack for contributing offensively in stints with Columbus, the New York Rangers and Arizona Coyotes, where he found himself in and out of the line-up. It was clear that the ability was there, but a consistent opportunity to play was needed. In his first season with the Devils, Moore set a career-high in assists (15) and points (19) in 73 games. The next year, Moore played only 63 games after suffering a mid-season concussion, yet still potted a career-high 12 goals - good for first among Devils defensemen. He also broke his personal-best set a year ago, by notching 22 points. Moore has consistently improved each season while displaying the potential that Shero banked on two years ago. Still a young man at just 26-years-old, Moore has solidified himself as a leader among a very young defensive corps.
Ray Shero set the hockey world on fire last summer when he acquired the 24-year-old Edmonton superstar in exchange for defenseman Adam Larsson. One of the most dynamic wingers in the game, Taylor Hall wowed the Prudential Center faithful with his blazing speed and prowess around the net. An early-season knee injury slowed him down a bit, but Hall still scored 53 points, which tied him for the team lead with Kyle Palmieri. He also earned his second career trip to the NHL All-Star game, winning his second consecutive 3-on-3 tournament title. The first overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, under contract until 2020, is the offensive centerpiece in which Shero is building around.
This past season also saw Shero claim P.A. Parenteau off waivers and sign Vern Fiddler to a one-year contact. Their steady play in New Jersey helped the Devils earn two more draft picks in this year's draft when they were both dealt to the Nashville Predators.
The draft is always the primary resource when constructing a team for deep-rooted success, but Shero has proven that calculated signings and trades play just as important of a role. Now with 11 picks this June, as well as the movement that will take place around the expansion draft, and ample cap space, there is opportunity for Shero to work his magic once again and possibly acquire another foundational player that will continue to make the Devils younger, faster and stronger.