Where do the New Jersey Devils go from here?
After being eliminated in five games against the Tampa Bay Lighting, the New Jersey Devils feel the season ending early is a disappoint, but they also feel there is optimism for the future. This was the first time since the 2011-2012 season they made it to the postseason. The Devils played hard for most of the season and they finished with the second wild card spot in the east.
Taylor Hall had an MVP caliber season with 39 goals and 54 assists. Nico Hischier was the number one overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and he was the Devils second leading scorer with 20 goals and 32 assists.
New Jersey has a big list of free agents this upcoming offseason: Ryane Clowe, Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Drew Stafford, Jimmy Hayes, Brian Gibbons, John Moore, and Brian Strait will be unrestricted free agents. Michael Kapla, Steven Santini, Stefan Noesen, Nick Lappin, Kevin Rooney, Blake Coleman, Christoph Bertschy, and Miles Wood will be restricted free agents.
The Devils will need to keep a couple of those around. I think they will re-sign Patrick Maroon, John Moore, Stefan Noesen, Blake Coleman, and Miles Wood.
New Jersey also needs to make a big splash in free agency in order to help out Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier. John Tavares could be a name to keep an eye on. Evander Kane, James Neal, James van Riemsdyk, and Tyler Bozak are some names to keep an eye on as well.
Is it also possible they bring back Ilya Kovalchuk? He hasn't played in the NHL since the 2011-2012 season with New Jersey and Kovalchuk has played in Russia for the past several season in the KHL. He is 35 years old and still has some juice in his game.
It seemed as if the Devils were going to head into the 2018-2019 season with a goaltending issue, but Cory Schneider answered all of those questions. He lost his job to Keith Kinkaid late in the season because Kinkaid was playing well down the stretch and Schneider wasn't.
Schneider came in relief in the middle of Game 2 for Kinkaid and he started the rest of the series for the Devis. Schneider went 1-2 with a .950 save percentage and a 1.78 GAA. He looked sharp in all of the games he played in. Schneider looked like his oldself and he doesn't have to question all offseason in whether or not he lost his game.
Keith Kinkaid will be the backup to start the 2018-2019 season, but who will be the third goalie for them? It will most likely be Mackenzie Blackwood because he is under contract with the Devils for next season and is the future goalie of the Devils, but Ken Appleby isn't under contract for the Devils next season and he had a better season than Blackwood did.
Appleby's record was 10-13-1 with a .901 save percentage and a 2.76 GAA, along with two shutouts. He appeared in three NHL games this past season for the Devils. His record was 0-1 with a .945 save percentage and a 1.45 GAA.
Blackwood's record in the AHL was 7-17-1 with a .882 save percentage and a 3.41 GAA, along with two shutouts. Because of his poorus play, Blackwood had to be sent down to the ECHL. His record down there was 2-1-1 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.48 GAA.
Head coach John Hynes did a better job coaching up his troops in the 2017-2018 season. If he didn't reach the playoffs this past season, Hynes probably wouldn't be with the Devils right now. In order that the Devils avoid a let down next season, they need to be focused from the opening gate.
Expect prospects like forward Michael McLeod, defenseman Colby Sissons, forward Brett Seney, and forward John Quenneville to have a chance to make the roster next season. Speaking of prospects, rookie Jesper Bratt had a good season with 13 goals and 22 assists. He did play in 74 games this past season with them. Expect him to be a major contributor next season. Rookie defenseman Will Butcher played well this season and he scored five goals and recorded 39 assists.
New Jersey has a solid youth movement, but they need to get some outsiders in order to take a step ahead.