Buzz: Lamoriello Has Been ‘Talking To’ Agents

Lou Lamoriello is making the rounds today. Earlier Wednesday, he spoke to Rich Chere about some of the Devils’ lower-level free agents. Now, Tom Gulitti has some updates on some of the more high-priority free agents.

Corey Griffin

That second tweet is far more important than the first one. It’s no surprise Lou is talking to their agents. Hell, he BETTER be talking to their agents with free agent less than six weeks away. The question is how many, if any, of them are willing to sign before free agency opens. For someone like Elias, who has spent his whole career with N.J., it makes sense for that to get done in advance. A guy like Zubrus that likes Pete DeBoer and knows where he fits on the team and in the system also might be willing to sign before the market opens.

However, for Clarkson and Zidlicky, this could mean they’ve played their last game in a Devils uniform. Clarkson is HIGHLY unlikely to strike any sort of deal before allowing a bidding war to start on the open market. Also, Zidlicky is likely to fetch more in free agency in terms of dollars than the Devils would likely be willing to pay him. That said, this is a wise move for Lou in my opinion. There’s no reason to get sucked into any sort of bidding war for any of these players, regardless of how much Clarkson means to the team and the franchise. I thought that Clarkson would eventually re-sign with the only team he’s ever known, but it sounds like I was wrong.

NEWS: Devils Begin Talks With David Clarkson, But Not Patrik Elias

Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger came through with a couple very important nuggets of news for Devils fans today.

Corey Griffin

Well this is certainly good, if not entirely expected news. I wouldn’t read too much into no Elias talks yet, although it does tell me that perhaps Lou Lamoriello has prioritized Clarkson, which would make sense for a few reasons. One, Elias’ value on the open market is pretty much well known. He’ll likely get a two-year deal worth between $9-12 million, but Clarkson’s value could spike if he’s allowed to talk to other teams. Of course, Clarkson and his reps understand that and I highly doubt Clarkson will sign before getting a chance to at least test free agency. This sounds to me like Lou testing out the waters and getting a sense of what Clarkson’s people are looking for in average annual value so that Lou can slot in whether the Devils will even be a player in talks. I’m on record as saying I think eventually a deal gets done unless Clarkson is truly looking for the biggest contract possible, in which case he’ll likely end up in Toronto or Edmonton. My guess is that this will play out a lot like the Zach Parise negotiations from last year, with Clarkson hitting free agency the Devils staying in it until the end. Whether Clarkson returns to New Jersey is likely up to him.

Buzz: Should Devils Chase Bobby Ryan?

The Anaheim Ducks were eliminated from the postseason, which means we can all start speculating about whether winger Bobby Ryan will be traded this summer. The Ducks have devoted a lot of cap space to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and there might not be enough left to keep Ryan, who is due to count $5.1 million against the cap for each of the next two seasons (per Cap Geek).

If a 30-goal scorer is on the trade market, you would think Lou Lamoriello and the Devils would be interested. Todd Cordell of Hockey Buzz posed the question, speculated about Anaheim’s asking price and then answered it rather definitively.

Via Hockey Buzz:

His points per game average was down a bit from his standards this season but he still had more even strength goals and points than every player on the Devils, so clearly he’d be a welcome addition.

Now about the cost. What would it be? I’m guessing the Devils would have to include one of Eric Gelinas / Alex Urbom / Jon Merrill as well as another forward prospect (likely Stefan Matteau or Reid Boucher), an NHL center off of their roster and potentially the 9th overall pick (depending on the prospects/center they offer).

A steep price, indeed, but you don’t get young perennial 30 goal scorers without giving up a lot. You have to give to get, they say.

Whether Ryan ends up a Devil or not, Devils GM, Lou Lamoriello, must make some calls and try to get his hands on Ryan. Lamoriello has said you look at every opportunity to improve your roster. Well, an opportunity is sitting right in front of you.

Corey Griffin

Cordell’s argument is a fair one. The Devils don’t have a lot of players with the offensive game that Ryan possesses and 30-goal scorers are increasingly rare commodities. I don’t disagree that Lamoriello should (and probably will) make a call to Ducks GM Bob Murray if indeed Ryan is available. Even if the Devils retain David Clarkson and Patrik Elias, we saw this season that’s not enough. If Clarkson leaves, Ryan would be a much better offensive replacement and likely at a similar cost value given what Clarkson could get on the open market. Ryan would give the Devils an instant 1-2 punch on the right side with Ilya Kovalchuk and could prove to be an incredibly dangerous winger playing alongside Adam Henrique or perhaps even be a new bestie for the sullen Travis Zajac. The idea, in theory, sounds like a no-brainer.

But you lose me at the cost. As we saw this season, the Devils have minimal depth both at the NHL level and throughout the organization. Sacrificing one of your top defensive prospects along with your top offensive prospect, a current NHL center and potentially the No. 9 overall pick in a talent-rich draft is way too much for a franchise like the Devils to give up. Lamoriello needs to keep adding to the prospects and the talent base, not subtract from it. I understand the idea of adding a talent like a Ryan (a N.J. kid, no less) is absolutely tantalizing. Some of you might say that trading unproven talent for proven skill is always worth it — and a lot of times I would agree with you. But I worry about this team beyond next season or the year after that. There has to be a talent pipeline once more and a trade for Ryan might very well gut it of most of the top-level players.

While I appreciate the idea and think Ryan could be a very helpful addition, I just think it’s a short-sighted move meant to capitalize on what’s left of Martin Brodeur’s career. The Devils need to build for next year and what happens after Marty retired, not one or the other. What do you think?

This Date In Devils History– May 8

Even though the Devils’ 2013 season is over, we can still look back at some great moments in New Jersey’s playoff history.

On May 8…

1988- Officials boycott game 4 of the Wales Conference finals between the Devils and Boston Bruins, after the NHL did not suspend New Jersey coach Jim Schoenfeld for his postgame outburst at referee Don Koharski.

Schoenfeld subsequently was suspended, replacement officials were used and Lou Lamoriello coached New Jersey to a 3-1 win in game 4 at Brendan Byrne Arena. David Maley, Pat Verbeek and Tom Kurvers each scored goals, as the Devils even the best-of-seven series at 2.

1995- Just a day removed from his second-career playoff shutout, Martin Brodeur shuts out the Boston Bruins again, 3-0, in game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Boston Garden.

2000- Brodeur stops all six shots he faces– yes six, that’s not a typo– in New Jersey’s 3-0 Eastern Conference semifinal-clinching game 6 win at Continental Airlines Arena.

Petr Sykora and Jason Arnott each register a goal and an assist, as New Jersey wins the series 4-2.

2012- Ilya Kovalchuk records a goal and an assist, and David Clarkson scores the eventual game-winning goal, as the Devils polish off the Philadelphia Flyers with a 3-1 win in game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Wells Fargo Center.

The Devils claim the series 4-1 and advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

Clarkson’s odd game winner:

Devilish Decisions: David Clarkson

Corey Griffin

David Clarkson

This is the first in a series of posts on the Devils’ pending free agents (restricted and unrestricted). We’ll cover their strengths and weaknesses and end up with a final verdict on whether we think the Devils should re-sign the player. There will also be a poll at the end of each post so you guys can weigh in with your thoughts.

Position: Right wing
Age: 29
2013 statistics: 48 games/15 goals, 9 assists, 24 points/minus-6 rating, 78 PIMs
Free-agent status: Unrestricted
2012-13 salary/cap hit: $3 million/$2.66 million (via Cap Geek)
Team history: Signed as undrafted free agent on Aug. 12, 2005

What he brings: Clarkson has developed into your prototypical power forward. He’s not the biggest guy (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) but he plays about two inches bigger than his bio. He’s strong on the forecheck and is one of those gritty “glue” guys that every team loves to have. He plays in all three phrases and also loves to get under the opposing team’s skin with the way he plays. The difference between the Clarkson of three years ago and the player that’s about to become an unrestricted free agent is scoring touch. Clarkson had always been a solid 10-to-15-goals per year kind of player until he finally reached the 30-goal plateau last season. Entering this season, there were questions about whether that was a fluke or whether he had legitimately reached another level of his development. Playing a full 48-game slate in the lockout year, Clarkson scored on a 25-goal pace and was constantly around the net, narrowly missing five to 10 additional goals over the course of the season.

To read more of this story, click here

This Date In Devils History– May 1

Even though the Devils’ 2013 season is over, we can still look back at some great moments in New Jersey’s playoff history.

On May 1…

2000- Patrik Elias records a goal and two assists, and Scott Gomez and Claude Lemieux each post two-point games, leading the Devils to a 5-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Continental Airlines Arena.

2001- Brian Rafalski’s overtime goal lifts New Jersey to a 3-2 victory over the Maple Leafs in game 3 of New Jersey’s Eastern Conference semifinals at Air Canada Centre.

2012- The Devils score four third-period goals– with David Clarkson’s proving as the game winner– as New Jersey knots up its Eastern Conference semifinal series with a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.

Clarkson’s hard-work winner:

 

Gameday: Devils at Rangers (4/27/13)

Devils-Rangers-Hockey

Who: New Jersey Devils at New York Rangers
When: 3:00 p.m. ET
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
Media: TV - NBC; (Channel listings); RadioBloomberg (1130 AM)

Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)

  • The Devils enter tonight’s game 15-11-3 in their previous 29 season-closing games. The team is 7-0-1 in its past seven season-closers, and has not lost since April 4, 2004 vs. Boston (3-1). New Jersey is closing a season on the road for the first time since April 18, 2006 at Montreal (4-3 win).
  • New Jersey closed-out the home portion of its 2012-13 schedule Thursday with a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh. The Devils are now 19-8-3 in their previous 30 home finales. New Jersey is 7-0-1 in its last seven home-closers (last loss, April 4, 2004 vs. Boston, 3-1).
  • The Devils finished with a 13-9-2=28pts mark at Prudential Center.
  • New Jersey finished with a season-high (tie) three consecutive home victories.
  • Thursday vs. Pittsburgh, the Devils improved to 5-17-6 on the year when allowing the first goal. New Jersey is 14-1-4 when scoring first this season.
  • Johan Hedberg (16 saves) earned the win Thursday in his first start since March 19 vs. the New York Rangers. He is expected to start this afternoon, as well.
  • Ilya Kovalchuk scored the game-winning goal and added an assist Thursday and now has points in three straight games (1g-3a-4pts). He is one assist shy of the 400-mark in his NHL career.
  • David Clarkson scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season Thursday. It was his sixth on the power play, which also leads New Jersey.

Expected Lineup

Forwards

Ponikarovsky-Henrique-Kovalchuk
Elias-Zajac-Clarkson
Zubrus-Josefson-Sullivan
Carter-Gionta-Bernier

Defense

Greene-Larsson
Volchenkov-Zidlicky
Harrold-Tallinder

Goalie

Hedberg

Inactives: Barch, Bernier, Ponikarovsky, Urbom, D’Agostini, Gelinas, Pesonen, Sislo

Sidelined: Salvador (wrist), Fayne (nagging injury)

The End: Today is New Jersey’s 48th and final game of 2013. New Jersey’s won four of its last five games and, though it won’t make the playoffs, nor will it be able to keep the Rangers out of the playoffs, the Devils can resign New York to the East’s No. 8 seed if they can win in regulation.

The Rangers will clinch at least the No. 7 seed with a point.

Moose: Hedberg will start in net in Saturday afternoon’s game at Madison Square Garden. The 40-year-old goalie stopped 16 shots in Thursday night’s win over Pittsburgh and is 0-1 against the Rangers this year.

On the flipside, Martin Brodeur will not start on Saturday, sitting out his first game at MSG while healthy since 1993. Apparently it was Brodeur’s call.

 

Leftovers From Thursday Night

I got a lot of postgame info last night. Most of it I used in Postgame Thoughts, yet some spilled over into today.

Here are some leftovers from the Devils’ 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

For whatever reason, the arena seemed exceedingly quiet until Travis Zajac’s second-period goal.

Maybe the Pens were playing a perfect road game. Maybe the 16,122 were tense and sad about the Devils’ final home game. But whatever the reason, the crowd was very quiet.

Even as the Devils mounted their comeback it seemed quiet. I guess that’s what happens when you’re unaccustomed to missing the postseason.

Still, Devils coach Peter DeBoer credited the team’s supporters.

“Fans have been amazing,” DeBoer said. “I can’t thank them enough. I really feel badly that we’re not giving them playoff hockey this year.”

Pittsburgh’s much-heralded trade-deadline additions have been outstanding.

Jarome Iginla has nine points in 12 games. Jussi Jokinen scored on Thursday– his fifth goal in nine games as a Penguin– and Brenden Morrow’s assist last night gave him 12 points in 14 games.

I nearly tweeted during the second period Thursday that if the Penguins were going to play defense like they had been, and Sidney Crosby and James Neal return, no one would beat them.

Then Pittsburgh gagged a 2-0 lead and lost 3-2.

Pittsburgh has an embarrassment of riches offensively, and the Pens are pretty strong on ‘D’ as well. Marc-Andre Fleury is a Stanley Cup champion. Still, there’s something lingering I don’t like about this team.

Patrik Elias told reporters last night “They’re good at making plays, and they turn the puck over quite a bit to. You can get some opportunities. “

Teams like that don’t typically win the Stanley Cup these days.

After falling behind 2-0, against the east’s best team, the Devils could’ve packed up the tent but didn’t.

“We played well against them all year,” Devils goalie Johan Hedberg said. “I can’t say that we’ve had very many off-nights the whole season.”

The first two periods seemed like a microcosm of the Devils’ season: outplay and outshoot the competition but trail.

“We’ve outplayed teams, we’ve outshot teams, we’ve done everything right,” Devils forward David Clarkson said, “and we’ve had bounces go against us.”

Still, the Devils caught some breaks. The puck appeared to hop on Evgeni Malkin as he was all alone in front of Hedberg. That brief miscue allowed Ryan Carter to backcheck and deflect Malkin’s shot into the protective netting over the glass.

On Ilya Kovalchuk’s third-period game-winning goal, the Devils’ winger attempted a pass to Andrei Loktionov, which found Brandon’s Sutter’s stick instead. Pittsburgh’s forward redirected the pass into an open net, putting the Devils ahead.

Postgame Thoughts: Devils 3, Penguins 2 (4/25/13)

The Devils obviously will not be playing postseason hockey this year.

Yet, somehow they still managed to claim the season series from the Eastern Conference’s top team.

New Jersey came from 2-0 down to send its home crowd out with a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at Prudential Center.

“We played well against them all year,” New Jersey’s starting goalie Johan Hedberg said. “I think tonight we got a couple of bounces … and it was enough.”

Ilya Kovalchuk recorded a goal and an assist, and Patrik Elias recorded two assists, as the Devils won for just the fifth time this year when they did not score first. New Jersey improved to 19-18-10 and 3-1 against the Penguins.

“When you play against the best players in the league, it always fires you up,” Kovalchuk said. “They have a few of them out there.”

New Jersey will close its regular season Saturday at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.

“This is a big rivalry,” Devils forward David Clarkson said. “We’re going to come out and play hard.”

Matt Cooke and Jussi Jokinen each scored for Pittsburgh, as the Penguins fell to 35-12-0.

Making his NHL debut on Thursday, Devils defenseman Eric Gelinas admitted he was nervous.

Gelinas was a minus-1 in 15:59. He started the game on defense along with Peter Harrold.

“I was surprised to be on the starting five,” Gelinas said. “That made me more nervous. After the first shift, I think I felt better out there and just realized it was another hockey game.”

Devils coach Peter DeBoer admitted he liked what he saw from the 21-year-old defenseman.

 

“He was solid,” DeBoer said. “He moved the puck well. He gave us an element that you can never have enough of: a big, solid puck-moving defenseman.”

Hedberg concurred.

“I thought he played very well,” the netminder said. “You couldn’t tell it was his first game … he looked great.”

DeBoer told the media Thursday morning he’d try to keep his young defender away from Pittsburgh’s superstar-forward Evgeni Malkin, though Gelinas did meet Malkin for a few shifts.

“[Devils defense coach] Scotty [Stevens] believes on throwing them into the fire,” DeBoer said. “He did a good job.”

New Jersey’s defense as a whole was great, limiting Pittsburgh to just 18 shots on goal.

“This is a team that’s averaging 30-plus [shots] per night,” DeBoer said.

Hedberg, making his first start since March 19, stopped 16 shots to earn his first win since March 13.

“It was nice,” Hedberg said. “You want to finish strong, you want to finish with a strong feeling to walk away with … that was good for us.”

Hedberg’s best save came early on the second period when he stoned Pittsburgh’s Jarome Iginla with his left pad. Hedberg also stopped Kris Letang’s point shot with about four minutes left on what was Pittsburgh’s last real chance.

“He played unbelievable,” Kovalchuk said of Hedberg.

Clarkson was happy the 40-year-old backup could earn a victory in what likely was his final start of 2013.

“Moose is one of the best teammates you’ll play with,” Clarkson said. “It was great to get that win for him.”

Kovalchuk’s goal at 13:50 of the third turned out to be the game winner.

Kovalchuk received a pass from Steve Sullivan and cruised in on right wing. He sent a pass towards Andrei Loktionov that hit a Pittsburgh’s Brandon Sutter and beat Marc-Andre Fleury, breaking a 2-2 tie.

Kovalchuk admitted he was trying to pass but caught some luck.

“I was passing,” he said. “[Loktionov] was wide open. It doesn’t really matter.”

Kovalchuk also admitted that he and Loktionov would join Team Russia in the upcoming IIHF World Championships in Sweden and Finland.

“We’ll play together there,” Kovalchuk said. “It’s an honor to play there for your home country … they’re the reason why I am where I am right now.”

Kovalchuk also admitted how difficult 2013 has been on him. The superstar winger missed 12 games with a shoulder injury and has registered just 11 goals and 20 assists in 36 games.

“I think, overall with the injuries, this was the worst season of my career,” Kovalchuk said. “It’s not easy.”

Prorate Kovalchuk’s stats for a full season– including the 12 missed games– and he’d have 60 points, which would be a career low.

With his two assists, Elias boosted his team-high point total to 36.

Elias, who will be an unrestricted-free agent at season’s end, received chants of “Pat-ty” from the crowd throughout the night, including at the end when he was being interviewed by MSG’s Deb Placey.

“It’s great,” he said. “They showed their appreciation. I was trying to do my best job out there, and the fans recognized that out there. It feels great.”

The Devils were happy to send their fans out with a win in the team’s final home game.

New Jersey posted 18 sellouts in 24 home games this year. Thursday night’s attendance was 16,122.

“We owe it to our fans,” Clarkson said. “Our fans have been fantastic. They’ve been supportive, so we came out and we played hard there tonight.”

DeBoer admitted the team’s last home game was “bittersweet.”

 

Gameday: Penguins at Devils (4/25/13)

Who: Pittsburgh Penguins at New Jersey Devils
When: 7:30 p.m. ET; Pregame show at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Media: TV – MSG-Plus, NBC Sports Network (Channel listings); RadioBloomberg (1130 AM)
Twitter: @Pat_Pickens

Stats & Notes (via Devils PR)

  • New Jersey will close out the home portion of its 2012-13 schedule tonight. The Devils are 18-8-3 in their previous 29 home finales. New Jersey is 6-0-1 in its last seven home-closers (last loss, April 4, 2004 vs. Boston, 3-1).
  • With their win Tuesday night vs. Montreal, the Devils posted consecutive home victories for the first time since winning three straight March 7-13.
  • Tuesday vs. Montreal, New Jersey improved to 14-1-4 when scoring first this season. The Devils are 4-17-6 on the year when allowing the first goal.
  • On Tuesday, New Jersey scored twice on the power play for the fourth time this season and the first time since March 21 at Carolina.
  • Johan Hedberg will make the start in goal tonight, his first since March 19 vs. the New York Rangers.
  • Patrik Elias scored his team-leading (tie, David Clarkson) 14th goal of the season Tuesday. It was his fifth on the power play which also ties him with Clarkson for team lead.
  • Also Tuesday, Jacob Josefson scored his first goal since March 29, 2012 vs. Tampa Bay.
  • Steve Sullivan recorded 1g-1a-2pts Tuesday for this first multiple-point game as a Devil since February 15, 1997 at Montreal.

Expected Lineup

Forwards

Henrique-Loktionov-Kovalchuk
Elias-Zajac-Clarkson
Zubrus-Josefson-Sullivan
Carter-Gionta-Kostopoulos

Defense

Greene-Larsson
Volchenkov-Zidlicky
Harrold-Gelinas

Goalie

Hedberg

Inactives: Barch, Bernier, Ponikarovsky, Urbom, D’Agostini, Gelinas, Pesonen, Sislo

Sidelined: Salvador (wrist), Fayne (nagging injury)

Playing Out The String: Tonight is the Devils’ 24th and last regular-season game of 2013. New Jersey is 12-9-2 in its previous 23.

New Jersey has also sold out 18 of those 23 games. With the popular Pens coming to town, expect a 19th sellout on Thursday.

Wings Clipped: The Penguins are still without forwards Sidney Crosby and James Neal, who have been sidelined much of this month with injuries. Defenseman Paul Martin is also injured and will not play.

The End?: Elias, Clarkson, Dainius Zubrus and Marek Zidlicky are all unrestricted free agents at season’s end and tonight could be each player’s last home game as a Devil.

Elias is the franchise’s all-time scoring leader, Clarkson has become a fan-favorite, Zubrus has been here six years — I know, time flies — and Zidlicky’s the team’s only offensive defenseman.

Sullivan and Alexei Ponikarovsky will also be UFAs, and the Devils have six restricted free agent candidates too. This team could look very different next year.