The New Jersey Devils made a big splash on July 1 when they gave former Calgary Flames winger Michael Cammalleri a five-year contract. They made another vital move that has flown under the radar in signing Martin Havlat.
Havlat was signed by the Devils for one year, $1.5 million after he was bought out by the San Jose Sharks. He never seemed to get his skates under him in San Jose after he was traded from the Minnesota Wild straight up for Dany Heatley. He needed a change of scenery possibly more than anyone in the league.
Prior to coming to the Sharks, Havlat scored 209 goals in 621 games. Out of his 13 professional seasons, he had a negative plus/minus in only three of them. His stats speak for themselves.
He is the true “if he is healthy” player. He has great speed and an awesome shot, but he has trouble staying on the ice. He missed at least 40 games in last two of his last three seasons. That is why Havlat had to accept a contract much below what he is used to. The 33-year-old has to prove that he can stay healthy for a full season while putting up offensive numbers.
While it sure is a risk (a low one, but still a risk), Havlat could provide the offensive boost the Devils were looking for. The team is probably hoping they can get the same thing they got from a rejuvenated Jaromir Jagr last season. They hope that if they pair Havlat with his best friend Patrik Elias he will find his stroke once again.
With Havlat in the lineup, it looks like the Devils will have to make some sort of trade. The Devils currently have 13 forwards on one-way contracts, and they are looking to re-sign both Jacob Josefson and Ryan Carter. That would give them 15 forwards with only 12 spots which means someone will have to be moved.
Beyond that fact, Havlat will bring more to this lineup that what they already had. They have a lot of players who could provide offense, but they have their own issues. They have Michael Ryder and Damien Brunner who need to work on their defense, which is very important in the team’s game plan. They have Elias, Jagr and Dainius Zubrus who are on the wrong side of 35. They have Ryane Clowe and Tuomo Ruutu who are question marks for 2014-15. If Havlat can play up to his expectations, he could be the missing piece to the Devils’ puzzle.
Even if he doesn’t work out, he is only on the team for one season. That said, I think this will work out. There are enough players on this team to keep Havlat motivated. He is playing with fellow Czechs Elias, Marek Zidlicky and Jagr which should yield a fun season. Head coach Peter DeBoer finally has some serious weapons on both sides of the ice.