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Devils plan to keep adding to revamped roster

Hughes, Simmonds, Subban good start to offseason, GM Shero says

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Jack Hughes, P.K. Subban and Wayne Simmonds might not be the only significant pieces added to the revamped New Jersey Devils prior to training camp in September.

"I've made some calls and I'll be doing the same thing this week," Devils general manager Ray Shero said Tuesday. "We certainly would want to see what's out there. As the dust settles on the first day of free agency, everyone has their winners and losers, but winning on July 1 is never the goal.

"If you have a chance to improve your team you will. We're still in good shape, [NHL salary cap] wise, and we've utilized that space well. Our managing partners (Josh Harris and David Blitzer) have been very supportive, and we've kind of laid out that when the time is right, we'll take advantage of a couple opportunities and will continue to do so, if it's available."


[RELATED: Devils sign Simmonds | Free agent tracker]


The Devils have been active this offseason, drafting a top-two center, trading for a top-pair defenseman and signing a top-six forward in the span of 11 days.

"With the additions of Subban and Simmonds, we addressed some needs we identified at the end of last season," Shero said.

New Jersey (31-41-10) finished 29th in the NHL last season and missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.

The Devils acquired 30-year-old defenseman Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators on June 22, which came one day after they selected 18-year-old center Hughes with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Simmonds, who turns 31 on Aug. 26, agreed to terms on a one-year, $5 million contract Monday.

"I'm optimistic because we have a combination of youth with veteran players who are really going to help on and off the ice," Shero said. "I certainly feel good about where we are, and there's this excitement with P.K., Wayne and Jack Hughes. You have momentum there to be relevant. I'm looking forward to it but, again, we've got some work to do, but I think we're making progress."

Subban has three seasons left on an eight-year, $72 million contract (average annual value of $9 million) he signed with the Montreal Canadiens on Aug. 2, 2014. He was traded to the Predators by the Canadiens for defenseman Shea Weber on June 29, 2016.

Simmonds (6-foot-2, 185 pounds), who said he's been in the gym the past six weeks and is ready to prove skeptics wrong, will provide the Devils with a net-front presence on the power play. His 91 power-play goals since 2011-12 are third among NHL players, trailing Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (149) and Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning (95).

Video: Wayne Simmonds agrees to one-year deal with Devils

"At the end of the season, we wanted to secure a top-four defenseman and get a little bit bigger on the right side on offense," Shero said. "Behind Kyle Palmieri, we didn't have any natural right wingers. We addressed our top-four with the Subban trade, and then when it was apparent that Nashville wasn't going to re-sign Wayne, we thought that would be a great fit for us.

"I've always had a high amount respect for the way Wayne plays the game. He plays hard, plays honest and certainly plays for his teammates."

Shero said he anticipates exciting times ahead for the teams in the New York metropolitan area, including the New York Rangers and New York Islanders. The Rangers selected right wing Kaapo Kakko with the No. 2 pick in the 2019 draft and signed free agent forward Artemi Panarin to a seven-year, $81.5 million contract Monday.

"Hughes and Kakko are really good players and it's hard to pick one over the other because Kakko is a [heck] of a player too," Shero said. "Looking back at the top two picks in past drafts, Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) and Patrik Laine (Winnipeg Jets) went Nos. 1-2 in 2016 but play in different conferences, as do (2015 top two picks) Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) and Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres). Hughes and Kakko will be playing against each other in the (Metropolitan Division).

"I think it's great for the area, it's great for the rivalry, and I hope to be playing even more games against the Rangers because that means we're in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's going to make for a real good rivalry and certainly a great division."


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