I know this was promised a while back,but I decided to wait until just before the draft to put this up.
Here is some moves that I would make to hopefully improve the Atlantic Division Champions and give them a shot at going further next year.
The Devils have used a successful system,combined with some over-achievers to perform better than the talent in New Jersey indicates they should.
However,in the playoffs when the talent gets better,it becomes much harder to defeat higher level teams that you give away the talent edge to.
Despite the Devils having a better record than the Ottawa Senators,the Senators were the more talented team and in the playoffs ,the talent gap was evident.
So here we go
1)Sign Chris Drury and allow Scott Gomez to leave.
Allow me to preface this-I like Scott Gomez.He always played hard and I have no complaints for the most part.
But he wants 6-7 Million per year,is not the greatest defensive center in the league and does not score that many goals.
Gomez is a fine playmaker,but considering the cost of Gomez-I allow him to leave and thank him for his contributions on his way out.
Drury could be the best team leader in the NHL,scores more goals on a team that needs it desperately and is a good assist man,although not to the level of Gomez.
It would not surprise me that Drury could be made Captain almost as soon as he signs.
If there has ever been a type of player that screams New Jersey Devils,it is Chris Drury.
2)Re-sign Brian Rafalski.
Rafalski had his best offensive season ever and is the glue that keeps the Devil defense corps together.
I think Brian could give us a home town discount and finish his career as a Devil.
3)Sign Roman Hamrlik.
The Devils need a offensive puck moving defenseman badly.
I think this actually could be their top need.
Paul Martin continues to improve and I was impressed by Andy Greene in his late season stint in Red,but this team needs a guy like Hamrlik to give the Devils more offense and especially on the power play.
The Devils simply are not getting the production that they need from the defensemen on the power play.
I know there are rumors about Ottawa's Tom Priessing because he played so well in the playoffs.
I think that is an anomaly and Hamrlik will come at a cheaper cost,which is a bonus in the salary cap age.
Hamrlik knows the NYC area as he spent time with the Islanders and I think he is a good fit.
4)Get a veteran goalie to backup Brodeur.
I know Marty loves to play as much as he can and he might have had his best season ever last year.
However,there can be little doubt that he wore down in the playoffs and at the age of 35,if the Devils want to continue to get the best out of Brodeur,they need to rest him more than in the past.
It is obvious that the Devils have little confidence in current backup Scott Clemmensen and I tend to agree with them,so go out and get someone that you feel comfortable with and play him 20 to 30 games a year.
It is best for Marty and best for the organization.
There are many serviceable,available and reasonably priced guys that can fill this role.
Go get one.
5)Acquire a solid defensive forward.
John Madden and Jay Pandolfo are great at their jobs,but in the playoffs,they too were wore out.
The Devils had no defensive forwards that were good enough to shadow LeCavalier and his line or the Ottawa gang.
You cannot depend on the same two guys every night.
The Devils have always seemed to get mileage in this role out of guys that other teams could not.
Grant Marshall is an example of one.
I liked what I saw of David Clarkson last year,but I would like to add a veteran to be able to slowly add responsibility to Clarkson.
6) The Draft.
The Devils do not have a number 1 pick,they do have their 2nd rounder (57) and two third rounders-Calgary's (79 for David Hale) and their own (87).
In the second-take the best offensive player on the board.
Even if it is a European that might not come right away,this team always needs scorers and since most free agents will not come to New Jersey because of the style of play,the Devils must develop them.
With the thirds-make sure that you draft a defenseman with one of the two and take the best available player with the other regardless of position.
7) Make a commitment to play Devils Hockey.
I realize that some of you out there are laughing right now,but I watched every game this team played and all too often,I watched a team that tried to play too wide open and not play to their strengths to satisfy the critics of their style of play.
I would much rather have a 2-1 Devil win than a 7-6 Devil loss.
This team is built around a defensive ideal,not an offensive one.
If you want to change that-fine,but the talent here now does not fit that.
That is my off-season steps to improve the New Jersey Devils for the upcoming season.
Let's hope the Devils agree or if they don't,that they are right and I am wrong.!
Drury-Getty Images-Rick Stewart