The New Jersey Devils season did not go as planned. They felt like they were running out four very good lines on a nightly basis.
The fourth line looked like it was going to be the team’s biggest advantage. Two years ago when the Devils went to the Stanley Cup Finals, the fourth line played so well that they became somewhat famous. Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta and Ryan Carter became the heart of the team. When the momentum needed to change, they sent them out to give the whole team a spark.
It seemed everything went downhill in game six of the Finals. When Bernier hit Rob Scuderi and was immediately called for a major for boarding, the next five minutes may have been the worst in the Devils’ history. The hit itself was payback for Jarret Stoll smashing Gionta’s head into the boards seconds earlier, which received no call. When Bernier went into the box there was no score in the game, when he got out they were down by three.
In the offseason, Lou Lamoriello made sure to bring back all three players on two-year deals. He did not want to separate the lightning in a bottle he felt coach Peter DeBoer caught with these three.
The past two years saw the three have one player in one year have a positive plus/minus. Combined over the two years they are -35. Bernier is having the worst time, especially this season. He is -15 with three goals and seven assists. His shooting percentage is 3.6 percent. That shows that part of it is bad luck. There is no way you can take 84 shots on net and only have three goals without also having a little bad luck.
Some people would like the Devils to bring back Stephen Gionta only to bring back former Devil Brian Gionta. On the other hand, some people want both of them somewhere else.
The Devils have seven current players who are going to be unrestricted free agents next year, four outside of the fourth line. Of those, two are over 40 (Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur) and two others are very unlikely to be back (Marek Zidlicky and Mark Fayne). With everything, the team has just over $46 million allocated going into the offseason. The cap is set to be just over $71 million. That leaves the Devils with $25 million dollars with a top guy and a fourth line needed. The two defensemen are going to be some combination of Eric Gelinas, Alexander Urbom and Adam Larsson, which will probably take up another $3 million at most.
If you had that kind of money to spend on players, would you settle for the fourth line you have now? Would you not get better players and then move the lesser ones you have to lower lines? The Devils have the kind of money to really make a difference in this market. There is a good chance they are going to look for a major upgrade rather than use the money on their current roster.
Nick Villano is the New Jersey Devils writer for Rant Sports. He also adds to the site’s NFL, MLB and NBA content. You can follow him on Twitter here.