Lou Lamoriello is known for his skill as a negotiator, his ability to acquire the right pieces for the right price and being the architect behind the New Jersey Devils playoff dynasty as anchored by Martin Brodeur. Lately, he stands out most for letting talented players walk, not making the drastic move his aging team needs, and being overly sentimental with mediocre players.
Current free agency negotiations embody the new “status quo” of the Devils. New Jersey is targeting David Clarkson, a grinder with a scoring touch, while ignoring the impending situation with long-time leading points-scorer Patrik Elias. If Lamoriello is hoping for a loyalty discount, this tactic seems foolish and risky.
Last year, the Devils told Martin Brodeur to look to the open market to see if he deserved a second year in his contract. Former captain Zach Parise walked away after receiving only “a comparable offer” from the Devils that failed to match the best money on the market. The list goes on and on, but the Devils have mismanaged their free agency situation for years.
Lamoriello’s stubborn policy of not negotiating during the season likely led to Parise and countless other talented players hitting the open market. What the Devils are doing with Elias will likely lead to another tenuous free agency situation.
When Ilya Kovalchuk was injured near the trade deadline as the Devils clung to one of the final playoff spots in the East, Lamoriello stood still. He brought in Steve Sullivan to be a top-line forward, and the production simply wasn’t there. The Devils needed to be aggressive, but stood still and faltered down the stretch.
Moves like the trade for Andrei Loktionov are proof that the Lamoriello system of building a team works, particularly if the talented young center returns to the Devils. Electing not to replace the production of Parise or Kovalchuk, however, still led to the Devils missing the playoffs for the second time in three years. For most of the year, the Devils seemed to be a few good players, a little bit of depth, and some luckier bounces away from being an elite hockey team.
You can’t help but think the Devils would never have accepted this type of play and performance ten years ago. Instead, the Devils will retain a coach that missed the playoffs and likely keep much of this middling roster in tact.
Doesn’t Martin Brodeur deserve better in his final years in the league? Is mediocrity somehow becoming acceptable in New Jersey?