The IslesBlog staff over a seven-part series will break down the offseason of each of the New York Islanders’ divisional foes. In this second part, we dive into a team that had one of the busiest offseasons, the New Jersey Devils.
Making noise over the summer has turned into a trend for New Jersey, but it has yet to translate into success during the season. The Devils finished second-to-last in the MassMutual East Division, and had the NHL’s second lowest point total, ahead of only Buffalo. In their defense, they are the youngest team in the league and will enter the 2021-22 season with an average team age of under 25.
Fortunately for New Jersey, they won’t be a worse team this year. They still aren’t going to be a Stanley Cup contender, but they added a lot of talent to surround a promising group young of players.
The Devils biggest catch was free agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who they signed to a seven year/$63m contract. He fills a big need that the Devils have on defense, something they were hoping P.K. Subban would do when they traded for him two years ago.
“As a player and person, (Hamilton) has consistently shown a commitment to excellence and will play a leading role in our franchise’s return to an elite level in the league,” Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said in a statement after signing Hamilton. “We believe that the magnitude of his contributions on the ice will be equal to his impact on our culture as we continue to position ourselves for long-term success.”
Hamilton will slot in as the Devils top defenseman, joining Subban, Damon Severson, Ty Smith, Ryan Graves (acquired via trade with Colorado) and Jonas Siegenthaler (acquired via trade with Washington.) This core should be much improved compared to last year’s abysmal group.
The Devils also got better on the offensive end, adding Tomas Tatar on a two-year/$9m contract. They’re also expecting a full season from their captain, Nico Hischier.
With those two added to their group of forwards, they join Jack Hughes, Pavel Zacha, Jesper Bratt, Andreas Johnsson, Janne Kuokkanen, Yegor Sharangovich and Miles Wood. It’s a group with a lot of potential, but still a lot to prove.
This group will play in front of Mackenzie Blackwood and newly signed backup goaltender Johnathan Bernier. Blackwood has earned the trust of the organization over the past two years to be the main guy, and Bernier is an upgrade over Scott Wedgewood as their backup net minder. These are two guys that can steal games on occasion for New Jersey, but ultimately they will need better play in front of them to have success in the 2021-22 season.
So how will the Devils offseason impact the Isles? Well for starters they’re going to be a lot more competitive. While adding talent to their young roster, the bottom line is that is still a young roster that still has a lot to prove before being considered a serious Stanley Cup contender.
“You really like this group and the way it’s building,” Stu Grimson said on NHL Network on the Devils offseason. “It’s kind of a piece at a time, here and there. I wouldn’t say patching holes, but getting better.”
“This group is competing for a top spot out east without question.”
The Devils are capable of giving the Islanders fits, but in the end, the Islanders are a better team with more experience.
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