Dom Lunardo Aug 14th, 2019
It’s Devilish-ly good! Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to sunny Newark, New Jersey. Home of famous television series, “The Sopranos”, and the New Jersey Devils. After reaching the Stanley Cup Finals during the 2011/12 campaign, it’s been a tough go for the die-hard hockey fans in the swamp over recent years. Entering play this season, the Devils have missed the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons. A long way away from the franchise that hoisted Lord Stanley, hockey’s holy grail in 1995, 2000, and 2003. But Hey, this ain’t your father’s Devils. Long gone are the days of Scott Stevens, Claude Lemieux, Patrik Elias, Scott Niedermayer, Martin Brodeur and “Uncle” Lou Lamoriello. Times are changing for the black and red, and this season will be the most anticipated in recent years, by a country mile.
Even though Devils General Manager Ray Shero (like all GMs) has to (legally) abide by the firm NHL salary cap. You could make the argument that he acted more like a teenager entering the Mall of America with his fathers’ credit card than a responsible adult. All jokes aside, in just a few short months he added the likes of first overall pick, Jack Hughes, veteran forward and Scarborough, Ontario native Wayne Simmonds, the ever-energetic P.K. Subban, and KHL sensation Nikita Gusev. Not too shabby for a team mired in mediocrity over the past few seasons. Time will ultimately tell if Shero’s summer spending spree pays off in both the short and long run.
Restricted Free-Agent(s): F Pavel Zacha
Team Summary: Perhaps the biggest question (and concern) facing the Devils in 2019/20 is the uncertainty surrounding pending restricted free agent forward Taylor Hall. Hampered by injuries last season, and a major reason for the Devils downturn after making the playoffs a year ago, was the health of their stud forward. This season, however, reinforcements are on the way. At the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery, the “luck of the draw” was all blackjack, and bounced the Devils way. The prize? None other than Jack Hughes, younger brother of Canucks rookie sensation-, Quinn, out in Vancouver. Right from the early onset, the Hughes brothers are poised for NHL stardom, and this is music to the ears of Devils fans.
Prediction: This is a much-improved Devils team that will have high hopes and aspirations in 2018/19. The chips are in for the boys from Newark, with one eye on pending UFA Taylor Hall, who they’ll hope to keep beyond this season. A spot at the dance come April would go a long way in keeping him on board. With that being said, if they can receive consistent goaltending with the duo of Schneider and Blackwood, then there’s a reason to believe that the Devils can steal one of the two Wild Card berths in a very competitive Eastern Conference.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images