As soon as the Los Angeles King won the Stanley Cup, many people were already making their NHL picks for next year and projecting why the Kings can repeat. But what about the New Jersey Devils?
As much of a surprise as the Kings were, the Devils also pulled the unexpected by surviving the Eastern Conference. They were the No. 6 seed and most people expected the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers or New York Rangers to win the conference – not New Jersey.
The main difference between Los Angeles and New Jersey is the roster continuity. While the Kings will be bringing back virtually their entire Stanley Cup winning team back intact next season, the Devils will have a hard time doing the same.
For starters, they have to sign goaltender Martin Brodeur to a new contract as the veteran netminder is a free agent. Considering he’s played his entire career there, he’s likely to return although you never know. Meanwhile, the Devils also have sign center Zach Parise to an extension as he’s an unrestricted free agent as well. They’ve tried to extend Parise over the last year and it hasn’t worked and now it looked like the team’s top center is going to walk via free agency.
Even if the Devils keep these two (and a number of other unrestricted free agents), the general consensus is that they overachieved this season. They needed double-overtime in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs just to survive the measly Florida Panthers. One goal the other way and their run would have ended prematurely.
It’s reasonable to think that the Devils will once again be in the 90+ point range because they’ve done just that without fail almost every season over the last decade. But to expect them to represent the East in the Stanley Cup final once again – especially given how much roster turnover they could have – seems very unlikely.