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31 in 31

Inside look at New Jersey Devils

Hope additions of Hughes, Subban, Simmonds lead to playoff berth

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

31 in 31: New Jersey Devils

31 in 31: New Jersey Devils 2019-20 season preview

NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen and NHL Network's E.J. Hradek discuss the biggest questions facing the New Jersey Devils for the 2019-20 season

  • 07:13 •

NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the New Jersey Devils.

The New Jersey Devils were among the most aggressive teams remaking their roster this offseason, adding several high-profile players, including Jack Hughes and P.K. Subban.

The Devils selected Hughes, an 18-year-old center, with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on June 21 and acquired Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators on June 22. New Jersey signed right wing Wayne Simmonds (one year, $5 million) on July 1, and acquired left wing Nikita Gusev in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 29.

 

[Devils 31 IN 31: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]

 

The Devils are looking to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in the past eight seasons.

Hughes, who gives the Devils depth at center, joining Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, had 112 points (34 goals, 78 assists) in 50 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team last season.

"Jack has physical tools that are elite," Devils coach John Hynes said. "But the thing that really separates guys with physical tools is their love and passion for the game, the desire to get better. Jack has that component in spades in his personality."

Video: Hradek offers his thoughts on Subban, Devils

Subban, acquired for defensemen Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies, a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in 2020 NHL Draft, should be a top-pair defenseman and will boost a power play that ranked 21st in the League last season (17.7 percent).

The 30-year-old had 31 points (nine goals, 22 assists) in 63 regular-season games and three points (one goal, two assists) in six playoff games for Nashville last season. He has 408 points (98 goals, 310 assists) in 645 regular-season games, and won the Norris Trophy voted as the NHL's best defenseman in 2013.

"We felt we needed to add a right-shot, top-two defenseman, and in P.K. we feel we got a big, strong player who can play both sides of the puck very well and against other teams' top lines," Hynes said.

Subban said, "The Devils have a winning history and I look forward to working with coach Hynes to become a better player, help this team become a better team, and ultimately to get to our goal of winning a championship."

Simmonds, who turns 31 on Aug. 26, will add grit and a net-front presence. He had 30 points (17 goals, 13 assists) in 79 games with the Predators and Philadelphia Flyers, including three points (one goal, two assists) in 17 games after he was traded to Nashville on Feb. 25. His 91 power-play goals since 2011-12 are third behind Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (149) and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (95).

Gusev agreed to a two-year, $9 million contract with the Devils after he was acquired for a third-round pick in the 2020 draft and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. The 27-year-old never played for the Golden Knights after signing a one-year, entry-level contract on April 14 after he was named MVP of the Kontinental Hockey League. Gusev had 82 points (17 goals, 65 assists) in 62 games with SKA St. Petersburg.

"He's a right shot and plays left wing; he's a little like (Flyers forward) Claude Giroux in that he may not be the fastest guy but thinks the game at a high level," Devils general manager Ray Shero said. "With his great hands, creativity and imagination in how he plays the game, it was an opportunity worth taking to help us 5-on-5 and the power play."

Video: Daneyko speaks about Devils trading for Gusev

Goalie Cory Schneider had a 2.46 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 17 games after the NHL All-Star break and will look to build on that stretch after dealing with injuries in each of the past two seasons. The 33-year-old has three seasons remaining on a seven-year contract. Mackenzie Blackwood, 22, will challenge for a bigger role after having a 2.61 GAA and .918 save percentage in 23 games as a rookie last season.

The Devils also expect to return a top line of Taylor Hall, Hischier and Kyle Palmieri, but how long Hall will remain with New Jersey is unclear.

The 27-year-old left wing could become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2020 but can sign an extension of up to eight years with the Devils before then. He had 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) in 33 games but missed the final 47 games last season and had arthroscopic knee surgery in February. Hall had an NHL career-high 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) in 76 games and won the Hart Trophy voted as the NHL most valuable player in 2017-18.

"We'd love to have him long term," Shero said. "My relationship with Taylor has been great. He's a very thoughtful kid, asks questions, and I'm no different in asking him questions on how he's feeling and what's important."

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