Sorry, Devils fans. Hate to be the bearer of disappointing news if you’ve been waiting for general manager Tom Fitzgerald to make a big free-agent splash to speed up a franchise rebuild.
Not this year.
And maybe not next year.
Fitzgerald made that crystal clear in a Sunday morning Zoom call.
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The Devils have a plan to go for it once young centers Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes reach their prime, but not before even though they still are under $18.35 million under next season’s $81.5 million salary cap following three significant weekend acquisitions – defenseman Ryan Murray (4.6M) and left wing Andreas Johnsson ($3.4M) via trades, and goalie Corey Crawford ($3.9M) in a free agent signing
Those additions strengthen the Devils’ depth chart a lot –Murray is a first or second-pair blueliner, Johnsson slots in as a second- or third-line winger and Crawford fits nicely as a No. 1A goalie – but there still is a big, big need for a 25-to-30 goal winger to play with Hughes or Hischier, who are gifted playmakers.
A lot of free agents have signed since the market opened last Friday at noon, but as of Sunday morning there still were five forwards who could be a top-line winger for the Devils, who have missed the playoffs two years in a row and seven of the last eight:
–Taylor Hall (16 goals in 65 games, age 28)
–Mike Hoffman (29 goals in 69 games, age 30)
–Tyler Toffoli (24 goals in 68 games, age 28)
–Evgenii Dadonov (25 goals in 60 games, age 31)
–Mikael Granlund (17 goals in 63 games, age 28)
–Anthony Duclair (23 goals in 66 games, age 25)
It’s understandable why the Devils won’t re-sign Hall, a league MVP for them in 2018 who was traded away last December: His price tag is very high for a guy who is coming off two mediocre seasons.
Hoffman also is probably is going to get a very lucrative deal because he’s averaged 28 goals in his six full NHL seasons, but he’ll turn 31 in November and isn’t a great two-way forward.
Why not one of the others, especially someone like Toffoli, who is good scorer and complete player?
NJ Advance Media brought up this issue twice during Fitzgerald’s media available.
Here is the Q & A:
Q: Four or five of the top forwards on the market are still out there. You have $18 million left that you could spend. Do you see yourself being a player for a top-six winger that could really strengthen your depth chart?
Fitzgerald: “I don’t want to say no, but we’re not going to pretend where we’re at right now. I like the mix of guys that we have for where we’re at. I’ve said it all along, this team is going to go when Nico and Jack are both hitting their stride and we can start thinking about bigger acquisitions.
“So right now I’m comfortable where we’re at. I’m going to stay patient. If something makes sense, we’ll sit down as a group and just kind of go…
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