This season the New Jersey Devils did not waste any time falling out of playoff contention. Some believe a superstar forward could come into this clubhouse and make an immediate impact. Last season, the Devils were 19th in scoring, averaging 2.99 goals per game. This play led to a 27-46-9 record, finishing second to last in the Metropolitan Division. Additional offensive firepower would bolster this team’s production. However, a superstar forward will not solve this team’s problems. The roster has holes throughout, and some key players they must extend.
The Devils will be targeting skilled forwards in free agency this offseason, but that will not be their only focus. They will make every effort to retain restricted free agent Jesper Bratt, who led the team in points last season. Miles Wood and Pavel Zacha are other restricted free agents that the team may try and retain.
One big name attached to the Devils is Johnny Gaudreau. The Calgary Flames superstar posted 40 goals and 75 assists this season, helping his team to a playoff run. The New Jersey native will receive a sizeable contract this year, but the Devils should be one of the many teams checking in on him. At 28 years old, Gaudreau will be able to play with young stars Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes for years to come.
Gaudreau has been a reliable player for the Flames since 2013, and the Devils could use some dependability on their forward line. Both Hischier and Hughes have missed time in their young careers. Adding a durable star could increase the Devils’ consistency, and, hopefully, move them up from the bottom of the league.
Restricted free agent Brock Boeser is another potential target for the New Jersey Devils this offseason. Boeser is coming off a frustrating season. He was placed in COVID-19 protocol and suffered a wrist injury during the season. However, he managed 46 points in 71 games played.
Many expect Boeser to wear a different uniform this coming season, and the Devils have a chance to whisk him over to New Jersey. Gaudreau is more of a star than Boeser. However, Boeser would still make a tremendous impact on this offense.
One more forward the Devils may be after is Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Ondrej Palat. The 31-year-old superstar is often overshadowed by others on his team. Players like Steven Stamkos receive all the praise, while Palat makes plays in the shadows. Palat would be an excellent addition for the Devils and bring over a plethora of postseason experience.
The only concern with Palat is his age. He is already 31 years old, and the Devils are a very young team. They are not one player away from contending, so management will likely be eager to sign a younger star. This way, that player can skate alongside Hughes and Hischier for years to come.
Other Areas of Concern:
The Devils need help in their goaltending room. Jonathan Bernier had 10 appearances this past season, with a .902 save percentage. This made him the only goalie on the Devils above 90%. The team had high expectations for Mackenzie Blackwood, who had shown signs of being a dependable keeper in the past. However, he only managed a .892 save percentage in 25 games played.
If the Devils are serious about winning, they will bring in a proven goalie this offseason. The team must make a move, whether via free agency or trade. If not, they will statistically be at the bottom of the league in goaltending and defense. No matter who the Devils bring in offensively, they cannot offset the atrocious goaltending play this team had in 2021-2022.