January 07, 2011
New Jersey Devils President Lou Lamoriello put the present state of the sorry team succinctly as "we have to be part of the solution and not part of the problem."
His ice time in a lost season was a problem, as Lamoriello indicated it would decrease in favor of giving younger players a longer look on special teams -- and that he didn't want to do that to Langenbrunner.
His unrestricted free agent status next summer was a problem, because the Devils felt they could get something tangible back for him.
Whether or not you believe the problems end there depends on how much tension there was between Langenbrunner and Coach Jacques Lemaire.
So Lamoriello corrected the problem, sending the veteran winger and captain to the Dallas Stars yesterday morning for what will turn out to be a second-round pick in the NHL Draft, unless the Stars do not win a playoff round and/or do not sign Langenbrunner next summer. (The deal was held up due to the Stars' ownership situation.)
"No one should misinterpret this type of transaction," said Lamoriello on a conference call this morning, reiterating that it's all just business. "Timing is never right, but we've all gone through situations here that we're not accustomed to [this season]."
Although Philadelphia reportedly made an offer of two draft picks, it apparently wasn't good enough for the team to bring it to Langenbrunner to request if he'd waive his no-trade clause to go there (or that Lamoriello wasn't interested in trading him to an Atlantic Division rival).
A source said that Langenbrunner was only asked to waive it to go to two or three Western Conference teams. No teams in the East.
So the captain of the sinking ship is given a lifeboat.
There's going to be a hair-trigger reaction that the Devils trading Langenbrunner is a symptom of their terrible record or a perceived feud with Lemaire, but this trade chatter started before Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) even earned his first minus. From the Newark Star Ledger on Sept. 15:
"I knew when I was given the no-trade it didn't mean I wouldn't get traded," Langenbrunner said today. "It just meant you can control a little bit where you go."
Because of Ilya Kovalchuk's $100 million contract, the Devils must cut their payroll some $3-6 million. That means several veteran players are in line to be traded.
"It's part of the business. I'm aware of the unique situation the team is in. We'll wait and see what decision they make," Langenbrunner said. "Do I expect to be here? I don't expect anything right now. We're all in the same situation where something is going to happen and there are only a handful of guys who fit the description of guys who have to go."
They weren't going to re-sign him. And now he's gone.
Langenbrunner goes UFA next summer as he's in the last season of a 5-year, $14 million deal with a $2.8 million cap hit. The Devils acquired Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk in March 2002 from the Dallas Stars for Jason Arnott(notes) and Randy McKay. The duo won a Cup with New Jersey in 2003; in 2011, Joe Nieuwendyk just traded for Langenbrunner.
There's some legacy in NJ for Langenbrunner. He had 18 points in 24 games for the Devils in their 2003 Cup win. His was also a part of the ZZ Pops line with Travis Zajac(notes) and Zach Parise(notes) that led the team offensive in recent years.
Devils winger David Clarkson(notes) called Langenbrunner "the best captain I've ever played with and probably ever will play with" during the broadcast tonight. His reputation as captain amongst Devils fans doesn't match that praise.
Maybe having Scott Stevens as a captain for 12 years spoiled the 'C' for those that followed, but Langenbrunner never impressed as the team leader. Fact is that after he took the 'C' from Patrik Elias(notes), the Devils never made it out of the first round of the playoffs. This is, of course, nothing you can place solely on the captain when Marty Brodeur is letting in more softies than the front door at a Jenny Craig, but it does speak to a lack of leadership that was especially apparent in their pathetic showing against the Philadelphia Flyers last postseason.
It was time for a change. No need to wait until he skated away unrestricted next summer. For the Dallas Stars, they get a familiar face that'll still work hard and pot the occasional goal; if nothing else, he fills that valuable veteran winger role that Jere Lehtinen(notes) used to have on lock down.
Langenbrunner is a right handed shot that could play a third line role, or with Ribeiro and Morrow conceivably. He'll probably get penalty kill time and could see some second unit PP time after he gets worked in a little bit I would think.
For right now let's say this is a move that provides the Stars with a solid veteran and a good guy who will want to play hard after having the burdens of the New Jersey Devils this season lifted off his shoulders, but he had a great career there and will go down as much more of a Devil than a Star in the annals of NHL histor
As for the Devils, Lamoriello claims this isn't a rebuild. He hates the term, in fact. And when asked if he would entertain the idea of trading Martin Brodeur(notes) this season, Lamoriello said: "No. Does that answer your question?"
But when asked if anyone else on the roster was untouchable, Lamoriello dodged it.