2014-15 NHL team previews: New Jersey Devils

2014-15 NHL team previews: New Jersey Devils
August 31, 2014, 10:15 am
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(Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports)

As part of our summer series previewing the 2014-15 NHL season, CSNwashington.com is analyzing all 30 NHL teams, division by division. Today we continue with the Eastern Conference’s Metropolitan Division.

Today: NEW JERSEY DEVILS

2013-14 record: 35-29-18 (88 points)

Where they finished: 6th in the Metropolitan; 10th in the East; 20th in the NHL

Coach: Pete DeBoer (4th season)

Key additions: LW: Mike Cammalleri, RW: Martin Havlat, G: Scott Clemmensen

Key subtractions: G: Martin Brodeur, D: Anton Volchenkov, D: Mark Fayne

Projected Lineup

Forwards

Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jaromir Jagr

Martin Havlat - Patrik Elias - Michael Ryder

Tuomo Ruutu - Adam Henrique - Damien Brunner

Dainius Zubrus - Stephen Gionta - Ryan Clowe

Extras: Stefan Matteau, Steve Bernier, Jacob Josefson

Defense

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Jon Merrill - Eric Gelinas

Extras: Peter Harrold

Goaltenders

Cory Schneider - Keith Kinkaid - Scott Clemmensen

Our take:  While the biggest storyline in New Jersey this offseason was the club's decision to move on without Martin Brodeur, perhaps the bigger storyline to watch for next season is whether the team has can produce enough offense to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With Brodeur gone [he remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent], the 28-year-old Schneider will at long last enter NHL training camp as an undisputed No.1 goalie. The Devils signed Schneider to a seven-year $42M contract extension in July with rookie Keith Kinkaid and journeyman Scott Clemmensen expected to compete for limited starts as the back-up.

Schneider [16-15-12, 1.97GAA, .921SV%] produced better numbers than Brodeur last season, but only appeared in 45 games. Provided he is healthy, expect Schneider to earn at least 60 starts for the first time in his NHL career in 2014-15.

In front of Schneider will be a relatively young blue line that must now move on without veterans Anton Vochenkov [bought out, signed with Nashville] and Mark Fayne [UFA, signed with Edmonton].

The trio of Eric Gelinas, 23, Jon Merrill, 22, and Adam Larsson, 21, will instead be relied upon to handle more responsiblity, despite none of the three having played more than 128 career games.

While the Devils have some young pieces on the back end, the club will again led by veterans up front.

Jaromir Jagr, who turns 43 next season, returns to New Jersey after leading the Devils in scoring last season with 24 goals and 67 points in 82 games.

The Devils biggest area of concern last season was their inability to score more consistently at even strength. Only the Buffalo Sabres scored fewer goals at 5-on-5 last year than the Devils.

That's why Lou Lamoriello went out and signed Mike Cammalleri to a five-year $25M deal. The six-time 20-goal scorer is likely to take a spot alongside Jagr and Travis Zajac on New Jersey's No.1 line.

New Jersey also signed Martin Havalt, 33, to a one-year, $1.5M deal. The 33-year-old is expected to skate alongside his countryman Patrik Elias, 38, on New Jersey's second line, along with veteran Michael Ryder, 34.

The Devils do boast depth down the middle in the form of Zajac, Elias and Adam Henrique providing a formidable 1-2-3.

Shutout in the Shootout: The Devils would also benefit from some more success in shootouts... or any success at all for that matter. New Jersey was winless in 13 shootouts last season, converting on just 4 of 45 shootout attempts.

Milestone Watch: An entire essay can be dedicated to Jaromir Jagr alone [705 goals and 1755 points in 1473 career games]. We'll highlight that Jagr needs 13 goals to pass Phil Esposito for 5th most in  NHL history. He is also 17 points shy of passing Marcel Dionne for 5th all-time in overall scoring...

Provided Jagr stays healthy to begin the season and isn't given any days off, the Devils' 27th game of the season (vs Caps, Dec.6), could also be the 1500th of Jagr's career. He would become the 15th player in NHL history to suit up that many times.

Patrick Elias (393 goals and 983 points) is inching closer to becoming the first player with 400 career goals and 1000 career points as a Devil.

Will they make the playoffs in 2014-15? No, the Devils will narrowly miss the playoffs for the third straight year and for the fourth time in five years overall.

Against the Capitals: Thu.Oct.16 at Washington; Fri.Nov.14 at Washington; Sat.Dec.6 at New Jersey; Sat.Dec.20 at New Jersey; Thu.Mar.26 at Washington