NHL Free Agency Quick Hits: New Jersey Devils Get Older…Much Older

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The New Jersey Devils are coming off a season where they were the oldest team in the NHL, at just under 30 years of age. With their signings today, they have just gotten older, which is quite an accomplishment considering they had nowhere to go but down. After 27-year-old defenseman Mark Fayne followed the money trail to Edmonton, along with Benoit Pouliot of the New York Rangers, the Devils added wingers Mike Cammalleri (32) and Martin Havlat (33), and just recently as I write this, goaltender Scott Clemmensen (36) to be Cory Schneider’s backup this season. The Cammalleri contract certainly leaves a lot to be desired, but overpayment was the order of the day, and the Devils had to cough up $5 million per season on a five-year deal, which is pretty steep for a guy who has never played a full season and has been on the decline since 2009 when he signed a mega-deal with Montreal. Since then, he has not surpassed 26 goals or 50 points. As for Havlat, he is the dictionary definition of fragile, also never playing a full season, and having one of the more injured records of any player currently in the league. Since 2005, he has suffered two season-ending shoulder injuries, and played only 48 games last season due to a lower body injury. During the campaign, he scored 12 goals and 10 assists. He is not really much of a gamble, since it is a one-year deal for only $1.5 million. You could argue that it is a low risk, high reward deal, because if he stays healthy, he could really provide an offensive spark. However, speed has always been his biggest asset and a catalyst for his offense, and that too has been on a decline for the past few seasons.

For Devils fans, what is trouble here is the direction the team is heading. Either they truly believe in such reclamation projects (which are not really terrible, if they stay healthy) or they are planning on a tank season in which they can deal all these old guys to teams in the hunt for draft picks in what is supposed to be the deepest draft in years. If you look at this current roster, you have to wonder at what exactly GM Lou Lamoriello is thinking. Personally, I do not see the Devils being that bad, but if age does indeed catch up to them, my goodness, they have the potential to be dreadful, especially if Schneider has an off year.

Devils Skaters Over 30

Jaromir Jagr- 42

Patrik Elias- 38

Bryce Salvador- 38

Marek Zidlicky- 37

Dainus Zubrus-36

Michael Ryder- 34

Martin Havlat- 33

Michael Cammalleri- 32

Ryane Clowe- 31

Tuomo Ruutu- 31

Peter Harrold- 31

Andy Greene- 31

Only five players on the current roster are under 30 (Zajac and Bernier are 29), and one of them includes goaltender Cory Schneider (also 29). Not factoring in to this age break-down is 36-year-old Scott Clemmensen, who I think is a good signing for the Devils, to give them some stability as a back-up goalie. He has spent the last five seasons in Florida, playing dismally, but what Panthers goalie in their recent history hasn’t? Even if the Devils do remain healthy, some questions linger: Can Jagr keep up his team-leading pace he kept last season, or is he going to look like a guy over 40? Does Elias have any gas left in the tank? Does Ryder have a 20 goal season in him? Is Eric Gelinas the real deal? If Reid Boucher is called up, can he have a Calder-worthy season? Can Ryane Clowe, who has suffered two concussions in the last two seasons survive the gritty/checking/fighting style he plays with? If the answers are no to those questions, fans are going to be in for a long season. Already, they are poised to be one of the slowest teams in the league, and if these reclamation projects fall through, they are going to have one of the worst offenses.

In an off-season so far where the Rangers, Islanders, and Flyers did not improve, and the Penguins got worse, this was a chance for the Devils to step up and get better, to have a chance at the division. Next season is not going to be a lost cause by any means, but by the midway point, will they have anything left? And, if by chance they were to make the playoffs, do these old guys have a run in them?

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