The reigning Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils are stuck in neutral while division rivals have a foot firmly pressed down on the gas.
The New York Rangers acquired Rick Nash in a blockbuster deal on Monday afternoon and the Philadelphia Flyers went full bore with a massive offer sheet to All-Star defenseman Shea Weber, which Nashville matched. Clearly, both teams are always looking for improvements while New Jersey appears to have taken a step back.
New Jersey eliminated both clubs en route to the franchises fifth conference title. Both the Rangers and Flyers have answered back in a big way. Are the Devils going to respond?
It is very unlikely the Devils would have any interest in signing Alex Semin, especially if he is truly expecting $7 million a year. You can’t rule anything out theses days, but that price is way too steep.
Question is , what options are left and what, if anything, do the Devils do now?
Having already lost out on re-signing Zach Parise, New Jersey’s options appear limited. Trading one or even two of their D-crop seems like the most logical step towards progression.The Devils have eight defenseman under contract for the 2012-13 season and could even push that number to 10 if John Merrill and Alex Urbom impress in camp.
So who becomes the odd man out? The Devils best and only viable option is to trade a blueliner and that likely means shopping veteran Marek Zidlicky.
Zidlicky was acquired from Minnesota prior to the trade deadline last season and was instrumental in the Devils run towards the Stanley Cup. But, he is a defensive liability and became expendable as soon as the season ended. Zidlicky has one-year left on his contract with a $4 million cap hit next season. He is easily the odd-man out and a player that should be shopped. I hear the New York Islanders may be in the market for an aging puck-moving defenseman. (Yeah, that should go over well.)
New Jersey is in a good position right now with such a strong defensive group. It was only a couple of seasons ago that we weren’t even sure who would play defense for the Devils. Having a surplus of quality D is not the worst problem facing the team but they must use that luxury to their advantage. It’s rare to have pieces that can be moved with little or no drop off. Plus they have some money to spend.
Lou Lamoriello has always been very patient in making deals. He will pull the trigger when the right deal is presented to him. Lamoriello is constantly looking to improve the team and I’m sure he is paying close attention to what the Rangers and Flyers are doing.
Question is, How much longer can he wait before he finally makes his move?
Follow me on Twitter! @StevePalumboNHL
Email me at StevePalumboNHL@gmail.com