After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the New Jersey Devils:
The New Jersey Devils finished with their highest win total (38) in four seasons and remained in the hunt for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs well into the fourth quarter of the 2015-16 season, but injuries and a lack of scoring depth prevented them from qualifying for the postseason for the first time since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.
The Devils' 182 goals were 30th in the NHL, and general manager Ray Shero and coach John Hynes realize the importance of scoring more this season if they have any hope of making the playoffs.
Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri each scored 30 goals for the first time in his NHL career. If not for an inflamed tendon in his right hand, Michael Cammalleri might also have reached 30 goals last season (he had 14 goals in 42 games). New Jersey's most valuable player was all-star goaltender Cory Schneider, who was 27-25-6 with a 2.15 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage and four shutouts in 58 games.
Shero was busy upgrading his roster this offseason, acquiring forward Taylor Hall in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers, adding significant pieces in free agency, and re-signing restricted free agent defenseman Jon Merrill and forwards Palmieri, Jacob Josefson, Sergey Kalinin, and Devante Smith-Pelly.
Here is what the Devils look like today:
Video: Chatting with Taylor Hall
KEY ARRIVALS: Taylor Hall, F: Shero acquired Hall for defenseman Adam Larsson on June 29. Hall, who had 26 goals and 65 points in 82 games last season, teamed with Henrique in Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League and won back-to-back Memorial Cup titles in 2009 and '10. Hall and Henrique combined for 78 goals and 183 points in the 2009-10 regular season in Windsor, and 37 goals and 60 points in 19 OHL playoff games. … Ben Lovejoy, D: The loss of Larsson left a huge void on defense, so the addition of the right-handed veteran in free agency was important. Lovejoy, 32, who signed a three-year contract, had four goals, 10 points, 154 hits and 104 blocked shots while averaging 18:52 in 66 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2015-16. Hynes was an assistant coach when Lovejoy was with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League in 2009-10. … Vernon Fiddler, F: The 5-foot-11, 205-pound center, who signed a one-year contract, will help alleviate some pressure off Travis Zajac on defensive-zone faceoffs. Fiddler ranked third on the Dallas Stars with 897 faceoffs taken last season, winning 455 (50.7 percent). He had 12 goals and 22 points in 82 games. … Beau Bennett, F: Shero acquired Bennett from the Penguins for a third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft and signed him to a one-year contract on July 1. Bennett, who has good instincts and playmaking ability, can play either right or left wing. He has 16 goals and 45 points in 129 NHL games over four seasons.
Video: PIT@SJS, Gm3: Lovejoy hammers it past Jones
KEY DEPARTURES: Adam Larsson, D: The No. 4 selection in the 2011 draft, he really came into his own playing alongside captain Andy Greene last season, leading the Devils in hits (163) and ranking second in ice time (22:30) and blocked shots (148). … David Schlemko, D: The veteran was a good depth defenseman capable of playing big minutes and in any situation. He signed a four-year contract with the San Jose Sharks. … Jordin Tootoo, F: The right wing was a fan favorite; he was always there to defend teammates and provided energy in a bottom-six role. Tootoo, 33, spent the past two seasons with the Devils before signing a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks. He had 24 points and 174 penalty minutes in 134 games in New Jersey.
ON THE CUSP: Steven Santini, D: A strong training camp could land the right-handed defenseman a prominent role in the lineup. Santini (6-2, 207), a second-round pick (No. 42) in the 2013 draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract in April after he was named best defensive defenseman in Hockey East at Boston College last season. He appears ready for the next stage of his career following three seasons at BC. … Pavel Zacha, F: The 6-3, 210-pound forward has speed and skill, and could be ready out of training camp. A 2015 first-round draft pick (No. 6), he had 28 goals, 64 points in 51 games for Sarnia in the OHL last season. … John Quenneville, F: A first-round selection (No. 30) at the 2014 draft, Quenneville can play left wing or center. He had 31 goals and 73 points in 57 games last season, his fourth with Brandon of the Western Hockey League. … Joshua Jacobs, D: The right-handed defenseman signed his entry-level contract in April and is expected to begin the season in Albany of the American Hockey League. Jacobs, 20, had four goals, 24 points in 67 games for Sarnia of the OHL last season. … Nick Lappin, F: The 23-year-old right wing led Brown University in goals (17) and points (33) last season, and was named to the All-Ivy League First Team. Signed to a two-year contract in March, he had three goals and seven points in 12 games for Albany. … Miles Wood, F: The 6-2, 195-pound left wing, chosen in the fourth round (No. 100) of the 2013 draft, had 10 goals and 35 points in 37 games as a freshman at BC last season.
WHAT THEY STILL NEED: Zacha could provide the secondary scoring they need. The Devils could re-sign unrestricted free agent forward Patrik Elias, who could serve as a mentor to fellow Czech Republic native Zacha. Elias, 40, is New Jersey's all-time leader in goals (408), assists (617) and points (1,025). Shero also might need to acquire an offensive defenseman to help alleviate some of the burden from Greene. Though Keith Kinkaid is Schneider's projected backup, Scott Wedgewood could also make a claim to that position in training camp. Wedgewood had a 1.24 GAA, a .957 save percentage and a shutout in four games for the Devils last season.
Video: NJD@PIT: Wedgewood makes back-to-back saves on Fehr
PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY FOCUS: The knock on Schneider's fantasy stock his first three seasons with the Devils has been their lack of offense, but the acquisition of Hall changes things drastically. Schneider missed time because of injury and played behind the 30th-ranked offense in the League last season but still had 27 wins in 58 games with elite peripherals. If the Devils' top four forwards stay healthy and Schneider keeps his goals-against average under 2.30 and his save percentage above .920, he'll start more than 65 games and clear the 30-win hurdle for the first time in his NHL career. That likely would equate to a top-five finish among fantasy goalies. He's fair game to draft once the top 30 players are off the board.
Michael Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Kyle Palmieri
Taylor Hall - Adam Henrique - Devante Smith-Pelly
Reid Boucher - Pavel Zacha - Beau Bennett
Vernon Fiddler - Jacob Josefson - Sergey Kalinin
Andy Greene - Steven Santini
John Moore - Ben Lovejoy
Damon Severson - Jon Merrill