New Jersey Devils Need Top-Six NHL Free Agency Talent for Ilya Kovalchuk
Beyond current negotiations between the New Jersey Devils and second-line wingers Patrik Elias and David Clarkson, the Devils may need to look outside the organization to fill voids in their top six. The offense was pathetic down the stretch, and even if New Jersey can successfully re-sign both Elias and Clarkson, the team lacks scoring depth.
After an injury to Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils featured a top-line that had an unproductive trade-deadline Steve Sullivan on it. Adam Henrique and Travis Zajac both struggled mightily all year, and if not for the emergence of Andrei Loktionov playing alongside Kovalchuk, the Devils would have found a way to isolate and squander one of the most dynamic offensive talents in hockey. Something needs to change, and it’s time the Devils brought in some outside talent.
Assuming the Devils find a way to re-sign Elias and Clarkson, New Jersey will be a few players short of a great offense. The Devils lack scoring threats to play alongside Kovalchuk. With a middling group of defensemen, the offense will need to be among the league’s best if the Devils are to compete in Martin Brodeur‘s final years.
Luckily, there are a plethora of players the Devils can target in free agency to bolster their team. Jarome Iginla should be on the market at the end of this season, and he will likely be highly sought after even in his final years in the league. Mike Ribeiro is coming off a phenomenal year and could be a dynamic weapon playing alongside Kovalchuk in the same way he was with Alexander Ovechkin.
A great fit for the Devils could be Nathan Horton, whose offensive production and commitment to winning would work well with what the Devils already have on the roster. Stephen Weiss played under Peter DeBoer already, and Derek Roy, Valtteri Filppula, or even a guy like Wojtek Wolski could bring top-six scoring at a low price.
As much as it’s not Lou Lamoriello‘s style to invest top free agent talent into his team, if there ever was a time for the Devils to reload it’s now. Brodeur is nearing the end, and the gaps in the top six are too much to overcome. If New Jersey wants to compete, they need to make a move. Unfortunately, I’m not sure they will.