With the departure of the reigning powers in New Jersey complete — both Lou Lamoriello and Jacques Lemaire are in Toronto now — incoming general manager Ray Shero is making a clear departure from the past with bonuses available on entry-level deals and some familiar faces not getting the loyalty they enjoyed under the previous regime. Shero has made it explicit that he does not plan on bringing back either Steve Bernier or Scott Gomez, as reported by NJ Advance Media’s Rich Chere.
Both players are unrestricted free agents and neither has a contract at the moment. Shero outlined the team’s thinking to Chere:
“That’s not a direction I’m looking to go at this point. I think we made a decision back before the draft to let (Bernier) go to free agency and let him go in a different direction,” Shero told NJ Advance Media. “Obviously they haven’t signed anywhere yet, but I’m sure they are working on some things themselves.
“With Scott, as I’ve said before, it really wasn’t so much about him but more us going in a different direction and giving an opportunity to younger players. We drafted (Pavel) Zacha and I’ve talked about (Jacob) Josefson.”
The 30-year-old Bernier played under a one-year, $600,000 contract last season, while Gomez was invited to camp on a professional tryout (PTO) contract and was ultimately given a one-year, $550,000 deal.
The Devils should have a pretty fresh look next year with the team deciding not to re-sign Bernier, Gomez, Martin Havlat, Bryce Salvador, Peter Harrold and Michael Ryder. (At least, none are with the team now and Harrold has signed with the St. Louis Blues.) They also bought out Dainius Zubrus, traded away Jaromir Jagr and Marek Zidlicky in-season, Ryan Clowe may not play again, Tim Sestito will play in the KHL and the team agreed to terminate Damien Brunner’s contract mid-season, allowing him to go play in the NLA.
It’s going to be a new look for the Devils, with a lot of room for younger players to grow into bigger roles. The team’s current roster may be a couple players shy of where you’d expect them to be on opening night, but at the moment Shero says he has no plans to bring in any players on a PTO for camp. That leaves a lot of room for guys like 2015 1st round pick Pavel Zacha to make an impression and earn their way onto the roster.