Devils headed for lengthy rebuild?

Updated: July 7, 2015
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When Ray Shero took the reigns from Lou Lamoriello as New Jersey Devils general manager back on May 4, team owner Joshua Harris said there were no shortcuts in winning the Stanley Cup. It appears as if Shero is following those words this summer and it started at the draft back on June 26 when the team, instead of dealing the sixth overall pick for some immediate offensive help, selected 6-foot-3 forward Pavel Zacha. 

He might be the top offensive prospect in the system followed by the likes of Reid Boucher, Stefan Matteau, John Quenneville, Ryan Kujawinski and Blake Coleman. Boucher and Matteau are expected to make the team and Zacha, along with Coleman and Quenneville, will sure fight hard. However, it might be very beneficial for Zacha and Quenneville to start out in Albany or go back to Junior since the Devils appear headed for what fans hope to be a short rebuild without the shortcuts, so no need to rush them into the lineup.

Shero also chose not to bring back Scott Gomez, Steve Bernier, Peter Harrold, Martin Havlat and Michael Ryder, and Bryce Salvador is not expected to return. Forward Ryane Clowe is expected to go on long-term injury reserve with a concussion, so his money will be off the books.

Before free agency opened on July 1, Shero said he was not looking to make a splash. And, it has been a very slow summer with a not-so-strong free-agent class. Shero signed defenseman John Moore and forward Jim O’Brien on Day 1 of Free Agency. He also added defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani on Friday.

At the draft, he did make his highest-profile move by trading a 2015 second rounder and 2016 third rounder to the Anaheim Ducks for winger Kyle Palmieri, who happens to reside in Montvale, New Jersey. So, for now, Palmieri stands as the team’s biggest offseason acquisition.

Both Palmieri and Moore were first-round picks in the 2009 draft by the Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets, respectively. Moore was involved in two high-profile trades. First in 2013 in a deal which sent forward Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets from the New York Rangers. Then, Moore was traded from the Rangers to the Arizona Coyotes in the deal which brought defenseman Keith Yandle to New York. The Coyotes decided not to qualify Moore making him an unrestricted free agent.

For now, the plan for the Devils in 2015-16 is to continue to develop the great depth they have on defense. It will be up to new coach John Hynes to be the anti Peter DeBoer, who was fired back on Dec. 26 to use them in the right way. And by that, meaning using Adam Larsson and Eric Gelinas in the right situations for them to succeed.

Both were in DeBoer’s doghouse, but Larsson was able to find his game late in the season. However, Gelinas still needs to step up. Also, Jon Merrill has to find his consistency and Damon Severson cannot be very streaky. Andy Greene is expected to be named new team captain and be the leader of this defense. Others in the pipeline are Seth Helgeson, Raman Hrabarenka, Steven Santini and Joshua Jacobs. 

While the summer is still not over for a while and with more moves expected from Shero, it appears the team is headed for some sort of rebuild. The playoffs might still happen in 2015-16, but that’s a huge longshot.

So, look for the likes of Palmieri, Stephen Gionta, Travis Zajac, Mike Cammalleri and Adam Henrique to be the offensive leaders for the Devils. O’Brien, Quenneville, Coleman and Zacha will certainly fight for spots. Longtime veteran Patrik Elias, along with Dainius Zubrus and Tuomo Ruutu, are going to come off the books next summer, so Shero’s goal could be to contend in 2016-17 with a stronger free-agent class then and a higher salary cap.

They are set in goal with Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid. But, if Devils fans are hoping for an offensive rebound this upcoming season, they might be asking for too much. The key word is patience from Shero and, for his sake, hopefully it’s only one more year of missing the playoffs, which would make that five of the last six years.

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