COMMENTARY | The New Jersey Devils kicked off the start of unrestricted free agency with a bang. The Devils will enter the 2013-14 NHL season with three new forwards: Ryane Clowe, Rostislav Olesz and Michael Ryder. On another note, the team will no longer have David Clarkson, as the right winger agreed to a large contract to play for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.
General manager Lou Lamoriello entered free agency needing to shore up the team's top three lines and was able to do just that.
The Devils signed Clowe to arguably the most shocking contract of the day. The big winger had a down year as part of the San Jose Sharks and New York Rangers as he only managed to score 3 goals on the shortened season. In addition, he also may have suffered three concussions during that time span. If Clowe can stay healthy and bounce back to being a 20 goal scorer then the contract is not that bad. With that said, there is certainly a good amount of risk to signing him to a five year contract. There is no sugar coating it: Clowe is with the Devils to replace Clarkson. The Devils will obviously need him to stay healthy and produce, to say the least. One can also assume that Lamoriello signed Clowe to a similar contract to the one that Clarkson turned down before entering free agency.
Olesz may be an under the radar signing for the Devils at $1 million for one season. The winger has shown some skill throughout his career and was a high draft pick by the Florida Panthers in 2004. While he will probably not be in the lineup each night, Olesz provides necessary depth to the team and could find his way into the lineup on one of the two lower lines over the course of the season.
Michael Ryder was Lamoriello's best signing of the day. The winger has been a consistent goal scorer (he has scored 30 goals three times) throughout his career and only cost the Devils $7 million over two years ($3.5 million per year). Ryder should be a great fit on the second line with players like Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac who are both very good two-way forwards. Ryder is undoubtedly a boost to a team that struggled to score last season.
The Devils will miss Clarkson's game but the winger wanted to play for the Maple Leafs and signed a huge contract to make it happen. It is hard to fault him for it. The Devils were also right in moving on.
After today's activity, the New Jersey Devils are a better team now than they were yesterday. In the end, general manager Lou Lamoriello was able to get the job done.
Michael Pellegrini has followed the New Jersey Devils since the mid to late 1990s when they had players like Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk in the later stages of their career.
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