There has been no offseason for Devils General Manager Ray Shero and his staff as the crew prepares for the 2017-18 season. New Jersey has been one of the biggest topics of conversation amongst the NHL's non-playoff teams since the club was awarded with the first overall pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, which will be held in Chicago on June 23-24. During the early months of the offseason, Shero has left no stone left unturned as he searches for different ways to improve his team.
Discovering New Talent
Although the Devils hold eleven picks in the 2017 draft, the front office knows that it must look elsewhere to acquire talent, especially at defense. That was clearly evident in the final weeks of the season when New Jersey inked University of Massachusetts-Lowell defenseman Michael Kapla to an entry-level contract. Kapla, 22, has spent the previous four seasons, with the River Hawks and was captain of the 2017 Hockey East Championship. Kapla skated in New Jersey's final five games and averaged 17:26 TOI. Shero explained his satisfaction with Kapla's short NHL stint in April, "He's a very cerebral player, moves the puck well, certainly has some things to work on and we're happy to do that with him."
Following the end of the season, the Devils added Russian blueliner Yaroslav Dyblenko to a two-year, entry-level contract. The 6-1, 205lb, left-shooting defenseman won a Bronze Medal with Russia at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia and spent his previous five seasons in the KHL. Shero has expressed optimism on how Dyblenko's game can translate to the NHL and looks at foreign players as a strong talent pool for building a team. "You can't rely on seven picks or eleven picks in the NHL Draft. You need to find different ways to build your team."
The Devils are in an optimal spot headed into the offseason due to the impending expansion draft. Teams around the NHL will be looking to make deals because of organizational salary cap or protection issues. New Jersey has the potential to be among the major players who are looking to seal deals due to their inventory of assets. "You need assets in this league to get better, either in the draft or using your assets to try and trade for players to improve your team. I think we are well positioned there."