Free Agency Update #2: RFAs and Enerģija

A few loose ends were tied up this week during the annual Devils Development Camp, while one said goodbye to North America.

-On Friday Stefan Matteau was signed to a 2 year, 1 way deal, with a chance to finally stick in New Jersey.  The former first rounder split last season between Albany and New Jersey, appearing in 61 games with Albany and making 7 appearances in New Jersey.

-Saturday the last of the Albany RFAs was signed, as Seth Helgeson also signed for 2 more years, with an 2 way contract next season and a 1 way deal for 2016-17.  The 3rd year pro made his NHL debut in November, getting an assist in his first game, then stuck around with the parent Devils for 20 more games.  He appeared in 49 games with Albany, scoring twice and adding 10 assists.

-Add a third Devil to the Moving On category, as 5 year A-Devil Tim Sestito has taken his talents overseas, signing on with the KHL’s Dinamo Riga in Latvia (and where the translation in the title comes in).  There are only 4 players remaining in the organization that played in Albany during the inaugural 2010-11 season.

-Now for some highlights from this week’s Development Camp:

First thing everyone (especially myself) noticed?  More open on social media.  Compared to the past regime, this is a wonderful change.  There was even a social media class for the rookies as part of the camp program, along with a cooking/nutrition class, fitness testing, visiting two different Jersey hospitals, and a trip to Yankee Stadium.

Want the theme to Gilligan’s Island stuck in your head for a week?  Watch this:

Highlights from Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, featuring a goal by Raman Hrabarenka:

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Camping, Rule Changes, Etc. Etc.

After having to read about several NHL teams’ rookie development camps this week…starting on Monday, it will finally be New Jersey’s turn.  A total of 42 players will be taking the ice from July 13th-18th, culminating in a Red-White scrimmage on Saturday:

GOALTENDERS (4): Anthony Brodeur, Mac Blackwood, Ken Appleby, Colton Phinney.

FORWARDS (26): Brandon Baddock, Graham Black, Joseph Blandisi, Reid Boucher, Connor Chatham, Blake Coleman, Patrick D’Amico, J.D. Dudek, Matt Gaudreau, Artur Gavrus, Alexandre Goulet, Sergey Kalinin, Tyler Kelleher, Alexander Kerfoot, Ryan Kujawinski, Matt Lorito, Darcy Murphy, Max Novak, Blake Pietila, John Quenneville, Brett Seney, Brandon Shea, Blake Speers, Ben Thomson, Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha.

DEFENSEMEN (12): Joe Faust, Casey Fitzgerald, Raman Hrabarenka, Joshua Jacobs, Vojtech Mozik, Ryan Rehill, Steven Santini, Reece Scarlett, Damon Severson, Jacob Sweeney, Colton White, Tyler Wood.

A few fun facts about this group:

-8 players appeared in at least one game for Albany in 2014-15.  It could have been 9 if Brandon Baddock had seen action.

-25 players are Devil draft picks, going as far back as 2010.

-Family ties: Martin Brodeur’s son Anthony (a 2013 draft selection who was not signed) leads the goaltending corps.  Matt Gaudreau is the younger brother of Johnny Gaudreau, who just finished a stellar rookie campaign in Calgary.  Tyler Wood is the older brother of 2013 draft selection Miles Wood.

Fire and Ice has more information on the undrafted invitees.

In league news, the AHL announced their annual rule changes and playoff format for 2015-16:

-All teams will still play 76 games.  Unless you’re Bakersfield, Stockton, San Jose, Ontario, or San Diego, who will only play 68 (WHY????  Dumb dumb dumb…sorry.  Getting off topic.) games.  With an uneven schedule, playoff standings will now be based on points percentage instead of the actual point total (Math. Yay.).  The top 4 teams in each division will qualify for a playoff spot…however, if the 5th place team in either the Atlantic or Central Division finishes with a higher percentage than the 4th place North or Pacific Division team, they can cross over and grab that spot.  The divisional set up remains for the first two rounds of the playoffs.

-Overtime will now be 3 on 3 for 5 minutes, just like in the NHL and the ECHL.  The shootout remains if a game is still tied after that.  And also staying around…DRY SCRAPE!

-New for 2015-16: the coach’s challenge.  If a coach still has a timeout remaining, they can use the challenge to initiate a video review, but only for rules that use replay.

Free Agent Update #1: No Crickets Here!

We interrupt your Fourth of July weekend festivities to give you a recap of the first 3 days of the free agent signing period.

In the past, I would sit back and watch every other team load up or re-sign players like crazy during the first few days of July…and hear nothing out of New Jersey.  For days.  Or even weeks.

But not this year.  The new regime has come in and re-signed one big piece and picked up four others that do address needs for Albany.

Let’s start with Wednesday’s signings:

-First came the highly anticipated signing of forward Blake Coleman to an entry level deal.  A 3rd round draft choice in 2011, he just completed his collegiate career at Miami (OH), where in his senior season he appeared in 37 games and set a career high in both goals (20) and assists (17) while serving as assistant captain.  In 143 games over his four seasons, he scored 60 goals and assisted on 47 others.

-A few hours later, another expected signing: forward Paul Thompson (#21 on the AHL Big Board), coming off a career season, returns on a 2 year 2 way deal.  A late summer signing last year, all Thompson did was set a Albany/Lowell franchise record for goals in a season (33), was second in the league in power play goals (13), and represented Albany at the AHL All Star Classic in January.

-Then late Wednesday, a signing out of left field: forward Jim O’Brien (#11 on the Big Board) was signed to a 1 year, 2 way contract.  This may not sound like much to fans in New Jersey, but for the AHL level, this is a pretty big signing.  He split last season between Novokuznetsk Metallurg of the KHL and Hershey, scoring just twice in 22 games in Russia, but picking up 10 goals in 32 games with the Bears (and an additional 3 goals in 10 playoff games).  He does have some NHL experience, appearing in 63 games over parts of 3 seasons with Ottawa, and was also a member of Binghamton’s Calder Cup winning squad in 2010-11.

Friday saw two more players sign on the dotted line:

-The second goaltender/#3 on the depth chart hole has been filled, and it’s a familiar name to New Jersey fans: much like his new goaltending coach did last summer, Yann Danis (#56 on the Big Board) returns to the organization for his second tour of duty, signing a 1 year 2 way deal.  The journeyman netminder spent last season with Norfolk and Hartford, going 5-6-0 with a 2.72 GAA and .914 save percentage with the Admirals, and 12-7-4 with a 2.35 GAA and .921 save percentage with the Wolfpack.  He spent the 2009-10 season as Martin Brodeur’s backup, only seeing action in 12 games and going 3-2-1 with a 2.05 GAA.

-The second signing comes in the form of a 1 year 2 way contract for defenseman Marc Andre Gragnani, a name not familiar at all to New Jersey fans, but has a good AHL resume.  He spent last season with Bern in the Swiss-A league, putting up 37 points (8 G, 29 A) and a +13 in 49 games.  He has a bit of NHL experience, appearing in 74 games for Buffalo, Vancouver and Carolina, but most of his career has been in the AHL, playing in Rochester, Portland and Charlotte.  He won the AHL’s Eddie Shore Award (given to the top defenseman) in 2010-11 while with the Pirates.

2015 Free Agent Tracker (as of 7/1/15)

One note to add: the first listing under the Moving On category came yesterday, but he’s not going far.  As noted last week, Scott Clemmensen officially retired as an active player to become New Jersey’s goaltending development coach.  Clemmensen closes out a 14 year pro career that started and ended in Albany, with stops in New Jersey, Lowell, Toronto, Florida, and San Antonio in between.

Signed for 2015-16:

Raman Hrabarenka

Reid Boucher

Graham Black

Ben Thomson

Ben Johnson

Reece Scarlett

Dan Kelly

Mike Sislo

Brandon Burlon

Matt Lorito

Rod Pelley

Scott Wedgewood

Entry Level Signings:

Joseph Blandisi

Ryan Kujawinski

Blake Pietila

Sergey Kalinin

Vojtech Mozik

Restricted Free Agents:

Stefan Matteau

Seth Helgeson

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Cam Janssen

Joe Whitney

Tim Sestito

Darcy Zajac

Scott Timmins

Corbin McPherson

Paul Thompson

Joe Faust

Chris McKelvie

David Wohlberg

Kelly Zajac

Maxime Clermont

Moving On:

Scott Clemmensen (retired 6/29)