Andrei Loktionov was a few months from taking his game to Russia when the New Jersey Devils traded a fifth-round pick to acquire the young center. Since then, Loktionov has emerged as a top-line skater and one of the Devils’ best scoring threats. He’s also shown incredible chemistry with the now-injured Ilya Kovalchuk. There is every reason for the Devils to bring back Loktionov next year, but will they be able to sign him? Will the Devils even try?
Lou Lamoriello is notorious for not overpaying for talent. While the several defensemen signed to overpriced contracts on the current roster belie his track record, Lamoriello rarely springs for big-money contracts on the open market. Save for the Kovalchuk deal, Lamoriello’s biggest free agency acquisition since the Devils’ last cup may have been Dainius Zubrus.
Given the flashes of offensive promise that Loktionov has displayed on the top line, there will certainly be suitors this offseason. His time with the Devils has not only proven he deserves a spot in the NHL, but the system is making him into a two-way center with incredible potential.
Loktionov’s production on a middling offense has been impressive as well. He’s scored highlight-reel goals, made high-effort plays on the backcheck, and inspired a flat-lining offense while filling a void on the top line. His seven goals in just 18 games would lead the team over the course of a full season.
With other teams likely to make an offer on Andrei Loktionov, will the Devils take a big risk on an unproven player? They have the cap space, but Lamoriello shies away from opportunities like this. While Loktionov has been the feel-good story of the Devils’ season so far, he also will command a salary the Devils are typically quite hesitant to hand out after half a shortened season with the team.
After letting Zach Parise walk, would it really be all that surprising if the Devils let Loktionov explore the market as well?