[Crossposted to HLOG]
Following last summer’s angsting over whether the Devils would re-sign UFA Patty Elias, this summer is looking surprisingly stress-free. Sure Rafalski and Gomez are big names, but this year’s playoffs proved the Devils have plenty of capable young defensmen to fill Raffie’s shoes, and, well, seven years of Gomer have convinced us we can survive without him. As for the rest of the group, half of these guys played in Lowell this year. But let’s take a closer look, UFA by UFA, shall we?
Scott Gomez, C: Gomez had been a distant third to Briere and Drury in the center sweepstakes until he tried to cram an entire contract year into eleven playoff games this year. A tremendously gifted puck carrier, Gomez would be a welcome addition to any team. However, he’s downright craptacular on the face-off, can’t muster a decent shot to save his life, and has never shown any talent or inclination toward playing the other side of the puck. He’s a coaching Goldilocks, bristling under coaches who are too soft on him but also under those who are too hard. He’s one of those players who employs his father as a business consultant, which has led to strangely contentious contract wheelings and dealings, and which could cause tensions with management down the line. Irreverant and fun-loving, Gomer will likely be a fan-favorite on any team he moves to. The Devils will miss his puck-moving abilities for sure, but looking at the numbers, a) he got 40 goal seasons out of two different wingers, but both were in contract years (and Gionta’s dipped considerably lower than that the following season) and b) the Devils had the second-worst offense in the league with Gomer as the top-line center; how much worse can they be without him? (Don’t answer that.) For the amount of money that Gomez is asking ($6 million), he just doesn’t seem to bring enough to the table that would truly benefit the Devils (other than being Pando’s best bud, an honor PandoNation respects highly). And yes, we realize we are in complete and utter denial about this.
Brian Rafalski, D: Raffie is really something of a curious case. He is far and away the Devils’ most accomplished puck-moving D-man, and is the de facto number-one guy on the blueline… but he just really doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence around stately IPB Manor. We would, of course, love to see him stay a Devil, but if he manages to finagle a hefty contract out of a stupider, less impecunious GM than Lou, we won’t be sorry to see Paulie Martin, Andy Greene and Johnny Oduya step up to fill the, uh, “void” left in his absence. The postseason emergence of Greene, in particular, as an able-skating, small defenseman capable of scoring on the PP from the point kind of rendered Raffie obsolete, especially considering that Martin stepped up as the leading minute man among the D corps. That said, Raffie seems like a low-maintenance, nice guy. We wouldn’t mind seeing him stick around, but we don’t necessarily want to see Lou break the bank to make it happen.
Alexander Mogilny, RW: Uh, seriously? Well, the Devils will certainly miss having to strong-arm him into being “retired” with a “degenerative hip condition”, or whatever it was they said kept him back home in Russia this year.
Dan McGillis, D: We don’t keep much of an eye on the goings-on in Lowell, so we have no idea what kind of an effect losing him will have on the Devils AHL affiliate. We’re sure it’ll leave a huge hole, though.
Brad Lukowich, D: We adore Brad Lukowich, if only because for some reason we nicknamed him “Chocosnitch” (a really random Simpsons reference) last year and giggled every time we abbreviated it and called him “Choco”. Yes, it takes just that little for us to like a player. He’s been a very serviceable defenseman, for the most part playing solid, respectable minutes, and by the end of this past season had really cut down on the number of pucks he deflected into his own net.
Jason Wiemer, LW: There is nothing anyone can say to make us believe Jason Wiemer was under contract with the Devils (NHL or AHL) during any part of the 2006-2007 season. That’s just ridiculous.
Grant Marshall, LW: Yet another NHL vet who toiled for the duration of the year in the A. Doc and Chico kept assuring us that Marshall was working wonders teaching the kids up in Lowell about, presumably, stuff like “how to score unexpected, huge playoff goals early in your team’s Stanley Cup drive”.
Jim Fahey, D: Do we really have to think of something to say here about all the UFAs? Because we have no impression at all about Fahey, other than that he has a fantastic New England accent. What can we say? That never fails to delight us.
Jim Dowd, C: Ocean County, NJ’s favorite son really surprised us this year. He lurked around training camp without a contract, then finally got himself into the lineup and proved to be quite the indispensable johnny-on-the-spot in several key situations. He was relegated most of the year to negligible fourth-line minutes, but we liked the gritty, Pando-esque approach he brought to the game, and loved him on the PK. We’d like very much for him to be able to stay in Jersey, if only because he makes Pookie feel better about her daily commute from Mercer County to Ocean County, because his is longer.
Erik Rasmussen, RW: Rasser is the prototypical Devils fourth liner, but with the occasional injuries. Essentially a harder-hitting Jim Dowd, Rasser made do with very little ice time but generally had an impactful shift when he got out there, bringing some energy. If we had a choice between an energy line with Cam Janssen or an energy line with Rasser, we’d take Rasser ten times out of ten, not that Lou listens to us, and not that that’s even the issue here. Just saying. (We, uh, don’t like Janssen.)
Scott Clemmensen, G: Devils fans have a hard time remembering Clemmer was actually on the team, considering how rarely he made appearances. Considering Marty must start 10-15 fewer times next season if the Devils hope to improve on their playoff showing of this year, we should be more invested in the back-up, but… Seriously, what’s the difference between Clemmer sitting on the bench and Frank Doyle sitting on the bench? The Devils have never historically played well in front of the back-up regardless of how good he is. The fact of the matter is no team is going to sign Clemmer (see: his strangely well-reasoned-but-still-snotty column in the Hockey News regarding how screwed he’s been by the team) so he, and his $30,000 teeth, will most likely be holding down the Devils bench next season too.
Dan LaCouture, LW: The Devils had Dan LaCouture this past season? When did that happen?!