A few news items to close out a very hot and humid week (only a 101 degree heat index in Albany as I write, no big thing):
-The unsigned restricted free agent list has dwindled down to two players, as three more signings took place over the last two days: Jacob Josefson signed a 1 year contract on Thursday, followed today by Keith Kinkaid and Mike Sislo, also getting 1 year deals. It’s reported to be very close to a new contract for Adam Henrique, and I’m not sure what the hold up is with Dan Kelly.
-With the announcement of Mike Foligno as a new assistant, New Jersey also confirmed that the Albany coaching staff–head coach Rick Kowalsky, assistant Tommy Albelin, and goaltending coach David Caruso–will remain intact for the 2013-14 season. Now to still figure out the mystery of why Robbie Ftorek was around the end of last season…
-Just before the NHL finally announced the regular season schedule, the Devils put out their six game preseason slate on Tuesday. And naturally no game here at the Times Union Center. So still waiting for the make up from last year’s lockout.
Today the Devils kicked off the annual rookie developmental camp at their practice facility, AmeriHealth Pavilion, in Newark. Just as drills were getting underway, the complete roster was finally released. And there are some familiar names, some not so familiar ones, and a few people missing. The list:
Breaking down the roster:
-8 players saw at least one game in Albany during the 2012-13 season.
-All 12 draft picks from 2012 and 2013 are in attendance.
-13 players were non-Devil invitees: 11 from the college ranks, 1 via the OHL, and 1 via the USHL.
-There are quite a few familiar names from Albany not on that list that one would normally see in these camps. Apparently some of the veteran prospects of the group were not required to come, per a provision in the CBA. Others are still unsigned restricted free agents (or even unrestricted).
And a couple of interview videos, first with Jon Merrill:
And Reid Boucher:
With everything closed to the public (boo…not that I can go anyway, my annual week’s vacation doesn’t officially begin till after camp ends), this is as close as you’re going to get. There is a scrimmage planned for tomorrow, if any other news items pop up during the course of the week I may have an additional update.
Now that we’ve had two days to try and get over the whole Ilya thing, a couple of news items to pass on:
-Earlier this week, the AHL announced divisions and playoff format for the 2013-14 season. No changes at all in the Eastern Conference, but due to Peoria and Houston leaving and Utica and Iowa coming in, a slight adjustment in the West. One that left me scratching my head and double checking my North American map. Utica moves in to the North Division with Rochester, Toronto, Hamilton, and Lake Erie. Iowa moves into the Midwest Division with Chicago, Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, and Rockford. A new West Division was formed, featuring Abbotsford, Charlotte, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and Texas. You have to feel for the artists formerly known as the River Rats on this one. Not only are they in their fourth different division in four years, but now apparently North Carolina is in the western part of the country (last I checked, they were in the East Coast I thought). As if their travel schedule isn’t already brutal, I can only imagine how many division games they will get. As for Utica…it would have made more sense to put them in either the East or even the Northeast Division due to location and send a team like Syracuse, who’s closer to the North teams proximity-wise, to the other conference. But I don’t make the schedule or the division, I just watch the games. The playoff format will stay the same as last season: 3 division winners and the remaining top 5 teams in the conference get in the postseason. First round is a best of 5, with the remaining 3 rounds a best of 7.
-Congrats go out to the Devils front office, who were recgonized by the AHL for most season ticket growth in the Eastern Conference!
-2 more re-signings to report this week: first on Thursday, restricted free agent Harri Pesonen signed a 1 year, 2 way deal to return for his second season. He posted 31 points (14 G, 17 A) in 64 games in his first North American season, and even got in 4 games up in New Jersey. Then last night, rookie defenseman Raman Hrabarenka (or, if you’re in Europe, Roman Grabarenko) earned himself a 3 year entry level contract after being on an AHL-only deal last season. He only dressed in 34 games due to injury and being an extra on the roster, but still managed to put up 1 goal and 4 assists. He also represented his home country Belarus in the World Championships, scoring 1 goal in 7 games.
That leaves six restricted free agents left to be signed, for those keeping track.
Still waiting on word on which Devil prospects will be participating in this year’s development camp, starting this week. I’m hearing a few names here and there, but will wait until the official full list is out to do a post on that.
Normally, at this time of year, I’m usually reading up on how other teams around the Eastern Conference are loading up their rosters with new players, while here? *cue crickets chirping*
Well, I won’t be complaining about that anymore. Actually writing here for the fourth day in a row! Anyway, now to catch up on the latest:
-Yesterday afternoon the Devils shipped defenseman Henrik Tallinder to Buffalo in exchange for forward Riley Boychuk in an effort to clear some space under the cap. Boychuk is a 2010 7th rounder who spent all of last season with the CHL’s Fort Worth Brahmas, where in 41 games he posted 17 points (8 G, 9 A). He has a little AHL experience, appearing in 26 games with Rochester during the 2011-12 season.
-Earlier today, the Devils welcomed back another former member of the organization, signing forward Rod Pelley to a one year two way deal. He spent last season in Norfolk, posting 3 goals and 7 assists in 60 games after joining the team during the tail end of the lockout. Before that, he played 5+ seasons in the Devils organization, becoming a regular in New Jersey during the 2009-10 season after bouncing back and forth between the big club and Lowell (remember there?). He was dealt to Anaheim along with Mark Fraser in December 2011 for Kurtis Foster and Timo Pielmeier. Fun fact: if not for some visa paperwork issues back in 2006, he could have been one of the last Devil River Rats. I actually remember meeting him briefly in March that year, just after he finished his final year at Ohio State. He was supposed to play with the Rats on an ATO agreement, but due to those issues he never got a chance to suit up. But as a consolation prize, I did get to see Stephen Gionta and Travis Zajac make their debuts about a month later.
-And finally, per a tweet from Fire and Ice, restricted free agent Mike Hoeffel has re-signed, no terms disclosed. That leaves 6 RFAs that still need a new contract (cough, Henrique, cough).
UPDATE (7/9): Just as I hit publish for this entry, yet another re-signing by New Jersey: Cam Janssen is back for one more season, signing a two way contract. I would not be surprised if he were to return to Albany with Krys Barch still on New Jersey’s roster.
It’s the start of Day 3 of free agency. And there’s two actual signings to talk about! Both were rumored yesterday, but became official overnight.
-First, a well deserved new deal for Darcy Zajac, as he has been signed to a two year NHL entry level contract. The second oldest of the four Zajac brothers, he has spent all but 2 games in the Devils organization (outside of an ATO stint with Adirondack in 2010) while on two separate AHL only deals. Last season he appeared in 67 games, posting 9 goals and 8 assists. So that’s two Zajacs down, one to go…Kelly, you’re next. (Nolan is still at least two years away yet.)
-And the #ENERGY jokes stick around! Also awarded a new 2 year contract is Tim Sestito, who has spent the last four seasons bouncing up and down in the Devils organization after coming over from the Oilers. He appeared in 67 games for Albany posting 23 points (7 goals, 16 assists) and a team leading 106 penalty minutes (most coming via the Sestito Penalty, when he tacks on an extra 10 minutes for opening his mouth when there’s a bad call). He also made 6 appearances in New Jersey without getting on the scoresheet.
A day after the official start of free agency, but here is the first signing list of the summer:
Signed for 2013-14:
Restricted Free Agent (all tendered qualifying offers):
Unrestricted Free Agent:
Back at home after spending the 4th of July holiday up north in Lake George. A couple of news items to pass on, for those that may have missed it:
-Tuesday afternoon the Phantoms announced that they will be hosting the Devils on Saturday, September 28th in a preseason tilt. After a one year break, local fans will have the chance to see Albany before the regular season begins (last year you had to travel west to Binghamton, the only game outside of a training camp facility, to see the Devils). Ticket info will be available later in the summer.
-Wednesday night The Saratogian (in conjunction with The Citizens Voice out of Wilkes-Barre) compiled a list of the top 300 AHL free agents available. I will likely be keeping tabs more on this list than the NHL. Jeff Frazee is the highest ranking Devil at #68 incase you were wondering.
-Interestingly enough, New Jersey did sign #17 on the AHL list, winger Rostislav Olesz, to a 1 year contract. Considering it’s for $1 million, sounds like a one way deal. He saw limited time with both Chicago and Rockford last season, and ended up being bought out by the Blackhawks.
-And finally, the first Free Agent Tracker is ready to go and will be out at noon tomorrow.
We have reached the month of July. Before the craziness of free agency begins at the end of this week, there was one more piece of business to take care of: the 2013 NHL Draft, held at the Prudential Center. I tried to obtain a free ticket to the event, but not surprisingly I ended up home on the couch as the first round got underway Sunday afternoon. At the beginning of the day, New Jersey had a total of four picks: 1st round, 9th overall; 2nd round, 39th overall; 4th round, 100th overall; and 6th round, 160th overall. There was a lot of speculation as to who the Devils would pick at #9, maybe a forward that could provide some sorely needed offense? A few names were tossed around. But then, this happened:
Instead of picking at #9, the Devils pulled off a deal that seemingly came out of nowhere, trading the pick to Vancouver for goaltender Cory Schneider. While many cheered at first, I’m sitting at home with my jaw to the floor, in “Did that just happen?” mode. Of course the initial reaction was, what another goalie? But then, I started to think about it…obviously Marty will not be around forever, and with Schneider you have someone that not only can take over the #1 job once Marty finally does leave, but it gives the goaltending here and in the ECHL more time to develop and eventually compete for that #2 role in New Jersey. But at the moment only two goalies are technically under contract: Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont. Jeff Frazee and Keith Kinkaid are both in the restricted free agent category, which more than likely means they stick around, but as of now it’s not official yet.
Of course, there was more draft to go after the big trade splash took place. Time to meet the newest members of the Devils organization:
After swapping the #39 pick with the Coyotes for #42 and #73 in the third round, the Devils used the second round pick on Santini, an 18-year-old defenseman out of Mahopac, NY. He spent 2012-13 with the U.S. National Development Program, where in 66 games he posted no goals and 15 assists. He also represented the U.S. at the World Juniors, posting no points in 7 games. He’s off to Boston College in the fall, a school that has its share of alumni in the organization (Stephen Gionta, Joe Whitney to name a few).
With the second pick acquired from the Coyotes, the Devils used it to select Kujawinski, who spent all of last season with Kingston. Not bad offensive stats, with 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists) in 66 games. Good size, but there was a question about consistency.
An interesting selection at #100 in Wood, a prep school forward and Buffalo native. The 17-year-old (will not turn 18 until September) posted 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists) in 15 games. He’s off to Brown University in the fall, and depending on the ECAC and AHL schedule, I may have a chance to check him out when they play RPI or Union. You can follow him on Twitter at @MilesWood28.*
For the Devils last (at the time) pick of the draft, they chose an overage prospect in Bell, a teammate of 2012 draftee (and 3 game A-Devil) Damon Severson. He converted from a defenseman to a forward at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, and it paid off with a huge offensive year. He posted 93 points (38 goals, 55 assists) in 69 games, with an astounding +46 rating. He would likely be the first of the draftees to make an appearance in an Albany uniform due to his age (he will turn 20 in August). He’s on Twitter at @my_ohs29*.
Just when everyone thought the Devils were done for the day, something awesome happened.
As the seventh round progressed, the Devils made a swap with Los Angeles, snagging the Kings’ 7th round selection for a 7th rounder in 2015. And it was only fitting that proud dad Martin was the one to make the official announcement. The younger Brodeur is no slouch in goal, however, starring for a well known prep school powerhouse at Shattuck St. Mary’s, a team that has seen many of its alumni go to the NHL. He’s off to Gatineau of the QMJHL next season. For those who have wanted to see a Brodeur on the Times Union Center ice…you may get your wish in a few years time. You can find him on Twitter at @abrodeur30.*
(Note: clicking on the names will take you to the In Lou We Trust or Elite Prospects pages.)
*As the saying goes, for now.
Now that the draft is over with, the next step is the free agent list. Per Fire and Ice, all A-Devil restricted free agents received their qualifying offers, except for forward J.S. Berube, who is now an unrestricted free agent. The move was not surprising to me, with the little playing time he received (1 goal and 1 assist in 10 games, but 5 goals and 6 assists in 13 in Trenton) after returning from a training camp injury.
Friday afternoon the free agency signing period will officially begin, but due to me being away for the Fourth of July holiday I will post the first Free Agent Tracker at some point Saturday morning. As I have done the last two summers, there will be updates at the beginning of August and September.