Before the free agency frenzy begins on Wednesday, two last pieces of business to tend to:
-All teams had until 5 PM today to tender qualifying offers to any restricted free agents. New Jersey did just that with Stefan Matteau and Seth Helgeson. However, qualifying offers were not in the cards for Maxime Clermont or Corbin McPherson, making both of them unrestricted free agents.
-Here’s another list to keep an eye on for organizational depth: the annual AHL Big Board is out. With the original author moving on to greener pastures in Pittsburgh, our friends over at Chirps from Center Ice took over the project and enlisted several other bloggers, including myself, to help put the list together. Unlike in past years where you had to nearly scroll all the way to the bottom to find any Devils, there are quite a few Albany UFAs in the top 100: Joe Whitney sits at 10, Paul Thompson at 21 (just behind former Devil Bobby Butler at 20), Scott Timmins at 47, Darcy Zajac at 68, and Scott Clemmensen at 72. The Patriot News (who cover the Hershey Bears) did their own Top 100 list, complete with videos.
Unless anything earth shattering happens before Wednesday…the first Free Agent Tracker goes live at noon sharp on the 1st!
This weekend came the 2015 NHL Draft in Florida, and after some trading around (including landing Kyle Palmieri from Anaheim in a deal on Friday evening), New Jersey had a total of 5 draft selections. With a new regime in place so to speak and with some clear needs to rebuild the depth in the organization, this is a good start: 1 goaltender, 1 defenseman and 3 forwards. Time to meet the Class of 2015:
(Note: clicking on the name will take you to their In Lou We Trust profile)
In what appears to be somewhat of a gamble, New Jersey chooses Zacha, an 18 year old Czech forward who just completed his first North American season with Sarnia. In 37 games with the Sting he put up 34 points (16 G, 18 A), and he also represented the Czech Republic in both the U18 and U20 World Junior Championships, scoring 6 goals in 10 games. And…you have to get behind a guy who learned English by watching Dumb and Dumber.
Time to start rebuilding the goalie depth, and it begins with Blackwood, a 18-year-old Ontario native who has spent the last two seasons with Barrie of the OHL. In 2014-15 he posted a 33-14-2 record in 51 games, with a 3.09 GAA and a .906 save percentage. He also recently received an invite to Canada’s U20 World Jr. camp.
Also in rebuild mode, the forward depth. Adding to that is Speers, another 18 year old Ontario native who just finished his second season with the Greyhounds. In 57 games in 2014-15, he put up 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists) and an additional 9 points in 14 playoff games.
What’s a New Jersey draft without a defenseman? And the Devils start with White, another Ontario native who, in his second season with the Greyhounds, put up 22 points (6 G, 16 A) and a +38 in 67 games, and also appeared in 14 playoff games with 2 assists.
With their final pick, the Devils chose Seney, a 19 year old native of Ontario (I’m detecting a pattern here with these draft choices) who just completed his freshman season at Merrimack. He put up 26 points (11 G, 15 A) and a +3 rating in 34 games. Not a big guy (he checks in at 5’9″ and just 159 pounds) but what he lacks in size he makes up for with his speed, as Mike from ILWT notes in his draft profile.
With the draft over with, the next focus is on free agency. Monday afternoon is the deadline to tender offers to restricted free agents, and the fun begins Wednesday at noon, as the official signing period gets underway. Also on Wednesday: the first Free Agent Tracker of the summer, so stay tuned.
A couple of notes to pass along that will affect how the Devils will look in net next season:
-On Monday, restricted free agent Scott Wedgewood was signed to a new 2 year, 2 way contract (and note in the press release…actual salary figures! I haven’t seen that since the Carolina Rat days). In 36 appearances last season, he posted a 13-14-6 record with a 2.74 goals against average and a .903 save percentage. He will be entering his third full AHL season with a chance to claim the #3 goaltender spot in the organization behind Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid. As for who will join Wedgewood here? That’s a good question because…
-Earlier today per Fire and Ice, there is a chance that Scott Clemmensen could stay in the organization, albeit in a different role. New Jersey has decided to go in a different direction for a goaltending coach at the AHL level, instead using a roving goaltending instructor that will spend equal time between AHL/ECHL and junior prospects. With Johan Hedberg exiting, Clemmensen could possibly step in. In his third tour of duty with the Devils last season, he split time between Albany and New Jersey, appearing in 27 games with Albany going 12-11-2 with a 2.23 goals against average, and 3 games with New Jersey, posting one overtime loss and a 4.71 GAA. He came up big down the stretch in April, winning 4 out of his last 5 starts, including a shutout of the Penguins in Wilkes-Barre in the next to last game of the season.
-Also announced earlier this week: the annual Developmental Camp will take place July 13-18th. Once I see a roster I’ll have a post up about that.
…since I last updated this thing. Before I jump head first into local baseball season (which begins on Friday…those that follow me on Twitter have all been duly warned), how about some updates?
-Congratulations go to the Manchester Monarchs, who in their final season as an AHL franchise captured their first Calder Cup on Saturday evening by defeating Western Conference (now new division rival) Utica in 5 games. Since I wasn’t able to get to the Aud for a game (when there’s a line around the corner hours before the box office opens, attempting Ticketmaster is pretty much going to be a fail), I did take advantage of the free AHL Live feed and watched parts of 3 of the games…and I have to tip my cap to the Comets fanbase. You will never find a louder, more loyal group than that in any arena, whether minor or major league. I even saw it first hand during the All Star festivities (and I’ll confess to jumping in on a few UTICA chants).
-When the first edition of this year’s Free Agent Tracker comes out on July 1st, you will notice that I have added a new list to go with who’s signed and who is up for free agency: those that have signed to entry level deals. Since my last post, two more names have been added, with both names coming from overseas:
-Back on May 29th, New Jersey signed Russian forward Sergey Kalinin (terms as always undisclosed), who comes to North America after spending the last 5 seasons with Avangard Omsk of the KHL. In 58 games last season he scored 25 points (12 G, 13 A) while serving as the team captain.
-Earlier today, a signing completely out of left field, as Czech defenseman Vojtech Mozik was signed to an entry level deal. He spent the last 3 seasons with HC Plzen in the Czech Extraliga, where last season he notched 29 points in 51 games. His 10 goals (a career high) lead the league among defensemen.