The offseason started early for the New Jersey Devils this year, as the team did not qualify for the playoffs for the second time in three campaigns. However, with less than a month to go before the annual free agent frenzy begins on July 5, there hasn’t been a great deal of action from GM Lou Lamoriello.
Six players, including longtime Devil Patrik Elias, are set to become unrestricted free agents just after the dust settles on this summer’s fireworks. At the end of May, Lamoriello said in an interview on Tom Gulitti’s Fire and Ice Blog that it was his intention to wrap up deals with Elias, Dainius Zubrus, David Clarkson, Marek Zidlicky and Peter Harrold before the bell rings on the free agent market at noon on the fifth of July.
“In my opinion, they have to be done before that,” Lamoriello explained.
Well, the clock is certainly ticking as the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals are set to get underway tomorrow and the Devils have yet to make any significant headway with even one of these players. The only confirmed moves have been the resigning of Russian center Andrei Loktionov, who was set to become a restricted free agent this summer, and the announcement that forwards Steve Sullivan and Matt D’Agostini, both of whom were acquired in late season deals, would not be back next year.
Now, it is generally not Lamoriello’s policy to discuss ongoing negotiations with any players until a deal is in place, but the lack of action certainly is odd and may not bode well for these players remaining in red and black. Many hockey analysts blame the organization’s delay in beginning talks with Zach Parise last season as one of the primary reasons he decided to test the open market and ultimately leave for his home state of Minnesota after repeatedly telling the media his desire was to remain in the Garden State.
Aside from the big fish who are getting ready to head to market, the Devils also have a rather large pool of smaller ones who will be restricted free agents. Calder Cup finalist Adam Henrique falls into this category which includes nine other players. If qualifying offers are not made to them by July 2, they will then become unrestricted.
Clearly after last season’s epic failure, changes need to be made. Perhaps Lamoriello is waiting on purpose in order to bring some new blood into the organization because what has been there has not been able to get the job done.
Only Lamoriello has the answer and he’s not talking. As the clock continues to tick, fans will have to wait and see since there is a distinct possibility that some favorites may have played their last games in a Devils’ uniform.