It has been a successful offseason for the New Jersey Devils, to say the least. Ranging from re-signing players to good contracts, to drafting the future of the franchise, general manager Ray Shero has done it all this summer. So before the preseason officially starts next week, let’s take a look at the three best moves of the offseason.
#3 – Signing Will Butcher
This was a toss-up between signing Will Butcher and re-signing Damon Severson. While I believe Severson’s new contract was a great move, I think acquiring Butcher beats it, for two reasons.
Firstly, Shero had to sell Butcher on joining the Devils. Severson was always going to re-sign with the team but the Denver Pioneers’ defenseman had so much interest from around the league that it was never a sure thing he would sign in New Jersey. It’s exciting that Shero was able to sell the Hobey Baker award winner on the direction in which the organization is headed. Hopefully, this will start a trend that makes the Devils a premier free agent destination.
Secondly, after watching the prospects challenge in Buffalo last weekend, it’s clear that Butcher can play. He looked good with the puck, made smart decisions, and stood out. Adding a young, capable defenseman to your roster is always a plus and it seems Butcher has the potential to be even more than that. Shero added an exciting, young prospect to the Devils’ most pressing area of need, defense.
#2 – Trading for Marcus Johansson
Marcus Johansson claims the second spot on this list for good reason. He is coming off his best statistical season, setting career-highs in goals, with 24, and points, with 58. He is only 26 years old, can play all three forward positions, and is locked up for two more years. He will become a staple in the top-six next season and prove last year was no fluke. Head coach John Hynes even suggested that he is being considered for the number one center position following Travis Zajac’s injury.
#NJDevils coach John Hynes says Marcus Johansson, Adam Henrique and Pavel Zacha the three candidates right now to vie for No. 1 center job.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossRecord) September 14, 2017
The fact that Shero got him for a second and third-round pick is nuts and crazier still, the two picks weren’t the Devils’ original picks. Essentially, the Devils stole a top-six forward from a division rival for nothing. Johansson will only cost $4.85 million against the cap for the next two seasons and will help the Devils’ offense tremendously.
#1 – Drafting Nico Hischier
The new face of the Devils nabs the top spot. Even though this selection may seem odd, since it is a draft pick, I think it deserves to be number one. Winning the draft lottery and being able to pick first-overall was pure luck but selecting Nico Hischier was not. It was the result of hours of scouting and research. The two horse race of Hischier and Nolan Patrick came down to the wire and no one was 100% sure who would be taken even moments before the announcement.
The Devils selected the Swiss-sensation and they won’t regret it. The NHL is rapidly becoming faster and more skilled and Hischier is both. Patrick will be a great player but he is a power forward and the Devils already have one in Pavel Zacha.
Bottom line, I think Hischier’s game translates slightly better to the NHL than Patrick’s and there are no injury issues surrounding him. Shero successfully chose the next face of the franchise and that will be evident in 2017-18 as Hischier seems ready to start his journey and he believes it will begin in Newark. I can’t help but agree with him.
Final Thoughts on the Offseason
The best part about these three moves is that they will all be on display during the 2017-18 season. Johansson will be in the top-six, Butcher will play right away, and Hischier could land anywhere on the top three lines depending on his camp. They will be joined by fellow new additions Drew Stafford, Brian Boyle, and Mirco Mueller. Stafford and Boyle add depth up front while Mueller adds potential to the blue line. We will have to wait and see how well these pieces mesh together but overall this offseason was a huge win for Shero and the Devils.