The lockout shortened season is a marathon. By March, we should have an idea of what teams are in the running for the post-season. Because its all-conference games being played, there will be a mosh pit of combatants bludgeoning each other for every point. We know an injury now could be a detrimental handicap that costs a team a berth (Philadelphia was drowning before there was a sniff of a salvaged regular season). General Managers are going to face the task of filling voids in their roster sooner rather than later (the trade deadline is April 3rd this year).
New Jersey has yet to figure out their top winger hole left open by the departure of Zach Parise. Thus far, the Devils have picked up his scoring production with contributors like David Clarkson and Travis Zajac putting the puck in the net. The second line with Clarkson, Dainius Zubrus, and Patrick Elias has been the most consistent combo. We know what Ilya Kovalchuck can do; his goals will come. The CBGB line (Ryan Carter, Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier) will give a nightly effort and contribute now and then.
Yet how stable will these lines be if Head Coach Peter DeBour has to shift someone up to the top line? We’ve already seen five different forward play alongside Kovalchuk and Zajac. The task is finding the balance that doesn’t compromise the other lines.
The club has tried to fix it internally, but there’s nothing to show for it. Stefan Matteau got a chance in Montreal, but he is still an unproven rookie, and Sunday wasn’t his best performance of the first four games in his first stint with the pro team. Mattias Tedenby has had his chance early with the top six. The 2008 first round draft pick struggled to build consistency from game to game. He was sent back to Albany on Monday. Bobby Butler was signed in the off-season as a possible solution, but he is yet to be called up. He currently leads the AHL affiliate Albany in scoring with 16 goals, 26 points.
If no one in the club can make the jump, the solution should be through a trade or via free agency. Fortunately for the Devils, they have plenty of cap room. Via CapGeek, New Jersey has $13,496,515 in available cap space. With the salary cap shrinking next season from $70 million to $64.3 million next year, there are going to be clubs who need to get rid of players to stay underneath the cap.
Here are some players Lou Lamoriello could look to acquire:
Ryan Clowe LW/RW (San Jose Sharks) Current Cap Hit $3,625,000
At age 30, Clowe is in the prime of his career. The Mount Pearl native has provided valuable minutes on the Sharks second line. He’s a two-way power forward that will do the dirty work to open up space for his linemates. He can check, take a hit, and receives a pounding in the gritty parts while scraping for goals in close. He’s not going to light the lamp, nor is he speedy. But Clowe has proven to be responsible with the puck, and can play in the defensive end.
The knack against him is his lack of goals scored. He has teethered around the 20-goal mark. However, Clowe seems like a player that fits the New Jersey mold of a responsible forward. What he can do is duplicate Parise’s tenacious effort. Clowe always finishes plays and fights till the whistle. Plus, I never consider too many power forwards a bad thing.
Corey Perry RW (Anaheim Ducks) Current Cap Hit $5,325,000
The Ducks have not been able to build upon their Stanley Cup run from 2006. While they have some of the best young talent in the league (Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry), there are rumors for the past two years the club is considering dealing one of their stars. They are not hurting from the salary cap, though they could be strained considering Getzlaf and Perry will need new contracts after this year. If they believe Daniel Winnik’s early season success is a sign of things to come the organization might lean to part with one of them. I personally believe Anaheim loves Getzlaf and would pain to see him go. Not to mention New Jersey isn’t in desperate need for centers.
Let’s look at Corey Perry then, the elite winger who has proven to be clutch in the past (11 game winning goals in the 2010-2011) and one of the best forwards in the game (Hart Trophy and Rocket Richard recipient with 50 goals in ’10-’11). The 27-year old is big, can possess the puck in tight quarters, he’s heads up in the zone, and he’s not a liability on defense. He is coming off a disappointing 2011-2012 campaign with only 37 goals, 60 points, while racking up 127 penalty minutes. Perry will be motivated to step up his play, which could bring up his value.
Bobby Ryan LW/C (Anaheim Ducks) Current Cap Hit $5,562,000 (UFA in 2015)
The third member of the three amigos of Anaheim is the New Jersey born Bobby Ryan. He is currently signed through 2015, but is still rumored to be on the trading block.
Ryan is only 25 years old, but is already a consistent 30-goal scorer. Like his counterpart above, Perry has size and strength; he controls the puck with poise, and he’s also a playmaker. As the lockout ensued, he bolstered his overall game in Sweden, improving upon his penalty-killing skills. That’s good considering Anaheim takes a lot of them. A critique against the talented winger has been his effort throughout the game. Ryan had an alright 2011-2012 campaign despite the cloud of uncertainty surrounding his future with the club. He remains a good option, but New Jersey may have to part with a big piece to acquire him, or Perry, via trade.
Valtteri Filppula LW/C/RW (Detroit Red Wings) Current Cap Hit $3,000,000
Last season saw the Finnish native set career highs with 23 goals, 66 points, and 144 shots on goal.
The 28-year old winger is a playmaker with great skill and speed. Coming from the Red Wings organization, he is mature, hard working and can play in all three zone, as well as all three forward positions (that’s versatility for ya!). He is not known for handling physical opponents. Surviving the Atlantic Division requires toughness.
A knee injury over the off-season saw the Detroit winger sit out two months prior to the commencement of the shortened season. He’s entering the final part of his contract before becoming a free agent in the summer. This might be the year that Detroit starts to struggle as loss of talent, injuries and age start factoring in. Their offense could ill afford to lose a playmaker like Filppula, considered a top-four forward by his head coach.
Michael Ryder (Dallas Stars) Current Cap Hit $3,500,000
The Bonavista native knows how to score goals. Ryder is a sniper that knows how to get to the goal scoring areas. He loves to shoot the puck, and boy does he have a dangerous one in the slot. Sometimes he tries too hard to score, going for the shot over pass, and his skating is average at best. His production has been inconsistent throughout his career. His he’s bounced between 50 points and 30 points most of his career in Montreal and Boston. Yet he put together his best season in his NHL career in his first year with Dallas. In 82 games, he scored 35 goals, 62 points, and was a +17. He will be a free agent after this season.
He might not be the best option for the Devils, considering he struggles trying to play at both ends. Then again, how many people said Kovalchuk could never learn how to be responsible on defense? Nevertheless, he remains a quality goal scoring option.
Do you think the Devils could acquire any of these players this season, or in free agency, to fill the void of a top six winger? Is there someone else the club should have on their radar? Sound off in the comments below.
About the Author: Sports Reporter by day, puck stopper between the pipes at night. I was the Locker Room Reporter for the Islanders for WRHU-FM. Currently, I cover the New Jersey Devils on HockeyIndependent.com and Metro Area Hockey on BrooklynFans.com Follow me on Twitter @John_A_Iadevaia