BUFFALO – With Friday approaching and the free agent market close to opening, New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero can look at his NHL roster and see five forwards and four defensemen currently under contract.
OK, to be fair, goalies Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid each has a contract.
The Devils also extended qualifying offers to restricted free agentsKyle Palmieri, Reid Boucher, Jacob Josefson, Sergey Kalinin and Reece Scarlett on Monday.
In addition, a Devils representative said Shero is hopeful of signing defensemen Jon Merrill and forwards Beau Bennett and Devante Smith-Pelly before Friday. None received a qualifying offer.
That doesn't count rookies who likely will have a chance to win an NHL job in training camp, including defenseman Steven Santiniand forwards John Quenneville and Miles Wood.
But Shero has salary-cap space to use and a roster to fill out, making the Devils an interesting team to watch come Friday.
Shero started building his roster Saturday, when he acquired Bennett in a trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins for the No. 77 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Shero drafted Bennett in the first round as the Penguins general manager in 2010, so he knows him well and still believes in him despite all the injuries that limited him to 129 games in four seasons with the Penguins.
Shero discussed Bennett, Palmieri, the Devils free agency plan and more moments after he was done making his ninth pick in the 2016 NHL Draft on Saturday.
Here are Five Questions with Ray Shero:
Do you think it's just injuries that have held Beau Bennett back in his career?
"Yeah. Yeah. I mean, Beau is a real good player. He's got really good hockey sense, great hands, vision, he can make plays, he can play left wing, right wing, he can play up and down the lineup. I think that's been an issue, obviously. We know that. But that's something where we are in New Jersey I need to take some risk somewhere. Certainly he's a cost-controlled asset, younger, and we're going to see where it takes us and him. When I talked to him I said, 'I drafted you in 2010 in L.A. and let's just start again. I drafted you again today, how's that?' We're going to see where it takes us. It's a good opportunity for him but it's a good opportunity for us, and we'll see where it goes. When you're in the third or fourth round there's risk involved there with whatever you're doing. This has a little bit of a price to it in terms of financial, but that's what you've gotta do with our group and what we're looking to do. So, we'll see where it goes."
The financial side doesn't seem to be an issue, right?
"No. … We'll see where it goes. Our coaches know him well. Obviously I know him. That's not going to do any good unless he can do what we hope he can do. He's a great kid. He needs to get his career untracked. There's been some players like this in the past and they've actually gone on to actually do pretty well for themselves. But we have to take that chance, and to me it's all about risk and minimizing it as best we can. For the number of picks we had it's worth the risk, and it's minimizing it because we're not talking about a 10-year deal here or something like that. We'll give it a shot. He's a right-handed guy that can play the power play, left wing, right wing, up and down the lineup. We all know what the past is, but hopefully for his sake -- not even so much for ours -- but for his sake…he's a good player and hopefully he gets this opportunity and gets it going and see where he can take it in his career. We'll see."
Any new news on negotiations with Kyle Palmieri and getting a new deal done with him?
"I've talked to his agent a couple times over the last week and met with him when I was here [in Buffalo]. I think we're making some progress. I guess I'll have to talk to the agent to see if that's true, but it's going to work itself out one way or the other. Kyle, I think is a real good fit for us and I think we're a real good fit for him. It's just a matter of finding that right term. We all know the fallback. We all know the fallback is he'll file for arbitration and if it's that it'll be a two-year deal and it takes him to unrestricted free agency. I don't think either side wants that and that's not what I expect, so I hope it goes in the direction we hope it's going. I think that way for Kyle as well because I think he's been a good fit and I know he likes it. He's been a big part of what we're trying to do. He's at the right age. So hopefully we can get something done here in the next little while."
You guys have a lot of cap room and a lot of guys to sign. Do you anticipate being quite active on July 1?
"We're not going to have any problem cap floor or salary floor, whatever it's called. Ryane Clowe is on our cap. We have Marc Savard on our cap. Yeah, we have plenty of room. I don't want to spend to $73 million or above and not do it the proper way just because that's not what we're trying to do. But if there is something that makes sense and we are in the situation that if we got to $73 [million] we can go about $8 million over because of Savard and Clowe. So we don't have any problems. That's only if it's going to make any sense hockey deal-wise. So we'll see where it goes. But I think there's a lot to be done by a lot of teams by let's say [last Sunday] and early July so I think a lot of stuff will still happen, which everybody was waiting for [last weekend] and it never happened."
Have you heard from Patrik Elias and do you know what he wants to do yet?
"Yeah, actually I hear from Patrik. He's got my number and everything. It's great. No, he had a knee operation at the end of the season, which he was going to have to get anyway. That's the only chance. No. 1 he had to have it no matter what he was going to do. So he had it done. We're going to see where it takes us. We haven't committed one way or another, nor has he. We're just going to see. I was texting with him a week or two ago. He's over in Czech right now but he'll be back at some point. He built a beautiful house in New Jersey. We're just going to see. He'd love to try to play again, but he doesn't know yet and we don't know yet. So we'll see where that takes both of us. Hopefully he can be healthy and try to make a go of it, but we don't know and he doesn't know so we both agreed to see how it goes for him in the summertime, let's see how he feels in August or September. I don't see him playing for another team, so I'm rooting for him to get in a situation where we can at least have a discussion about it, but that's premature as well at this point. We'll see where he is later in the summer."