The New Jersey Devils were busy within the first several hours of the NHL free-agent signing period and wound up with three forwards, including two who could play in their top six.
The Devils signed left wing Ryane Clowe to a five-year contract reportedly worth $24.25 million and right wing Michael Ryder to a two-year contract reportedly worth $7 million. New Jersey also signed wing Rostislav Olesz to a one-year contract reportedly worth $1 million.
According to Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, the move to sign Clowe became necessary when right wing David Clarkson signed a seven-year deal reportedly worth $36.75 million with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"In my opinion, we had to fill that void [that Clarkson left]," Lamoriello told NHL.com. "[Clowe is] a player who could play in the top six and has good size and strength. He makes everybody a little taller."
Lamoriello added he felt he needed to be aggressive in his pursuit to sign Clowe (6-foot-2, 225 pounds).
"There were other situations, and it might appear aggressive, I understand that, but the need for me was worth the aggressiveness," he said.
Clowe, 30, likely will fill the power forward role Clarkson played. Clowe's contract carries an annual salary-cap charge of $4.85 million, and he said during an interview with TSN that the Devils were the team willing to give him the term he wanted.
"I'm really excited … it's been an interesting couple of days and I had good conversations with Lou Lamoriello and [coach] Pete DeBoer," Clowe told TSN. "I think New Jersey was pursuing the hardest. I wanted to stay in the Eastern Conference, and playing in New York was great. A lot of it was the term. That meant a lot for me. A lot of teams had interest, but New Jersey stepped up with longer term."
Clowe produced 19 points in 40 games split between the San Jose Sharks and New York Rangers in 2012-13. He had three goals and five assists in 12 games after being dealt to the Rangers on April 2, but injuries limited him to two games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has 46 points in 70 career playoff games.
Lamoriello said he isn't concerned with Clowe's recent string of injuries.
"We've had all of that checked out and we're satisfied," he said.
Clowe told The (Bergen) Record he has been given a clean bill of health.
"I feel great after getting the time off after the season to relax and recoup," Clowe said. "I'm training hard, everything's normal, so I'm ready to go. It's a five-year deal, I'm 30 years old, I feel like I’m kind of hitting my prime, I have a lot of hockey ahead of me and I'm really excited to join this team."
Clowe becomes the gritty, powerful forward the Devils needed to replace Clarkson, and Ryder fills the scoring hole Clarkson left at right wing.
Ryder had 35 points over 46 games combined between the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens in 2012-13. He reportedly was choosing between the Devils and Boston Bruins, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2011. He has 213 goals and 431 points in 677 career games.
"He's a pure goal-scorer and has a history of playing a major role and on Stanley Cup team in Boston," Lamoriello said.
Olesz was issued a compliance buyout by the Chicago Blackhawks, making him an unrestricted free agent; he played six games for them in 2011-12. He did not play in the NHL in 2012-13 and had 19 points in 14 games with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.
Olesz scored all of his 132 NHL points in 349 games with the Florida Panthers from 2005-2011. In Florida, he played under DeBoer for three seasons. Olesz also played with Patrik Elias on the bronze medal-winning Czech Republic team at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
"Pete played a big role, knowing the type of player he was when he had him in Florida," Lamoriello said. "Patrik played with him. He wants to rejuvenate his career."
After re-signing forwards Elias and Dainius Zubrus on Thursday, Lamoriello said the next order of business will be to lock up his restricted free agents, a list that includes center Adam Henrique.