Well it’s been a little longer than I’d have liked since I posted anything, especially since the Devils re-acquired center Jason Arnott from the Nashville Predators a little less than a week ago in exchange for right wing Matt Halischuk and a second round pick in next year’s draft. All I have to say is if the US Military wants to learn a thing or two on covert ops, they should take lessons from Lou Lamoriello.
This deal came right out of left field and completely blind sided myself and my sources. What irks me is this is a deal we should have considered to happen because it fits the frame of typical Lou Lamoriello trades, a former player the Devils haven’t been connected to in rumors. I can understand some of the disdain many Devils fans have towards the deal when you consider Arnott’s age and salary (35, $4.5 million), not to mention he’s had trouble staying healthy over the past four years (one seventy plus game season during that span), but I think Arnott’s far from being Rolston 2.0, which many pessimistic fans are already writing him off as.
The Devils have properly strengthened their depth up the middle for the first time in three years by getting an experienced, big bodied, natural center (which Rolston wasn’t). Now, in response to the allegations that Arnott is “past his prime”, I believe it’s just a stereotypical statement that comes with Arnott’s age. Although his in recent rash of injuries may have factored into his physical play, I don’t think it could affect his offensive output. Since he broke into the league, there have only been three seasons in which Arnott played more than sixty games, where he scored less than twenty goals (96-97, 97-98, 09-10). Not that this says much but had Arnott played full seasons over the past four years, he was projected to put up numbers typical of what he’s done throughout his career. In 2006-2007, Arnott had twenty-seven goals in sixty-eight games and was poised to net thirty-two had be been fully healthy. The next year, Arnott scored twenty-eight goals in seventy-nine games and was projected for twenty-nine, thirty. In 2008-2009, he scored thirty-three goals in sixty-five games and could have been on pace for a career-high forty-one goals. Having appeared in sixty-three contests this year, Arnott netted nineteen, but was on track for twenty-five in a full season.
The numbers speak for themselves, but if he truly was capable of putting up those stats is something we’ll never know.
This may be a little bold, but would it be safe to say over the past few years, the Predators have been a mediocre team at best? They’ve been all over the charts, from finishing fourth in the Western Conference one year (06-07) to missing the playoffs by a few points. Since their expansion in 1998, the Predators have made the playoffs about a handful of times and never got past the first round (although considering my team’s recent track record, I’m one to talk). Even in scoring, the Preds have ranked anywhere from top five to bottom ten during Arnott’s stint. The point I’m trying to make is, Arnott was never surrounded by a consistently supportive cast during the past four years he’s played in Nashville, and despite playing with the likes of JP Dumont, Steve Sullivan, Paul Kariya, and homegrown talents like Patric Hornqvist and Martin Erat, they always seemed to be missing something. Coming into Jersey, Arnott is becoming part of a core of young and veteran players with a respectable amount of experience, most of which are proven winners that seem to be amassing plenty of success at the wrong time together, with that one missing piece of the puzzle factoring into how far they’ve bee able to go when it truly matters. As of now, Arnott is becoming part of an offense that features the likes of Patrik Elias, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Jamie Langenbrunner, and hopefully Ilya Kovalchuk.
Assuming he stays healthy, Arnott’s joining a team with a potentially supportive cast that’s capable of thriving off each other, resulting in consistent offense, and hopefully the makings of a deeper playoff run if Arnott is the missing piece on this team’s offense.
With Arnott occupying one of the top two center slots on the team, it takes the pressure off of prospect centers Jacob Josefson and Adam Henrique, both of whom Lamoriello said have good chances of making next year’s roster. Henrique and Josefson have the potential to become top six forwards at the NHL level, but their development shouldn’t be rushed. Whether they spend the upcoming season taking a lesser role on the big team, spend a full year in the minors, or see a split in destinations, Arnott is a solid short term occupant, while the kids develop, which hopefully leads them to productive careers spent with the Devils long term…and speaking of one year, Arnott is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Look at the big picture and ask yourself if you think you can deal with what’s likely to be a full year rental of a veteran top two center for $4.5 million.
Ultimately, it’s low risk, high reward.
When the Devils acquired Arnott, there was a lot of immediate concern it took the Devils out of the running to re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk and defenseman Paul Martin. Although Lamoriello claimed he still intended on trying to re-sign both players, a wave of despair has been cast over a good number of Devils fans, convinced both players have played their last games for the organization. With the recent raise of the salary cap, the Devils currently have about $13 million in cap space, which should be plenty to re-sign both players. With restricted free agents such as David Clarkson, Rod Pelley, and Mark Fraser to consider, in addition to make room for other moves and have some cap space gong into next season, Lamoriello said he intended on clearing some cap space and making some moves that would “surprise” some people. As usual, Lou was very vague and left a series of possibilities behind the meaning of his words, leaving fans like us to merely speculate.
Assuming Lamoriello stays true to his word, I truly hope he’s been working the phones nonstop since making the Arnott deal. As much as I’d like to see him get rid of Rolston and his gross $5.2 million salary, there aren’t that many general managers stupid enough to fall into that trap, and even if they are, it’s likely they’ve got their own cap issues to deal with or are following their own agenda. Plus, Rolston has an NTC enabling him to have the last call on where he ends up or if he’s willing let himself be moved at all. Colin White and his $3 million also has an NTC, and since White’s spent his whole career in New Jersey, I don’t think he’ll be willing to accept a change of scenery at point.
The only two players I can see Lamoriello moving to clear cap space in the immediate future are defenseman Bryce Salvador and forward Danius Zubrus. Salvador and Zubrus respectively have two and three years remaining on their deals that pay them a little under $3 million and $3.4 million per. What makes both players likely candidates to be shipped out is neither of them have a no-trade clause (according to capgeek.com). Having said that, the Devils may have to receive a bad contract in return, which they may simply demote to Albany in the fall. If cap space is still a concern, I know Jay Pandolfo’s future with the Devils is shrouded in uncertainty, and his recent shoulder surgery assured he couldn’t be brought out or waived until he’s recovered. With a year remaining on his contract that pays him $2.5 million, it’d be nice to see that cap space go to a more useful cause on the team and whether Pandolfo accepts a trade or fails to make the team out of training camp (which I can’t see the Devils doing out of respect for his veteran status with the team), all three players combine for $8.8 million in salary, giving the Devils over $21 million to play with, considering their current amount of available cap space.
Overall, the Devils have options, but a lot factors into seeing them get fully utilized.
It’s been a crazy past couple of days in the hockey world that started on the day the Predators dealt Arnott to New Jersey. There have been a boat load of moves that were made subsequent to that, which I’d like to shed a little insight on…
Hamhuis’ rights dealt to Flyers…If Philly signs him, they automatically have one of the top three defenses in the league going into next year. However, if they intend on signing a true No. 1 net minder as well, they’ll clearly have to open up more cap space and who they trade and what any voids their departure makes should be considered.
Nathan Horton to Bruins…Boston got their top six forward. Horton’s clearly a better player then what he’s shown in Florida and I think we can see him net 25-35 on a stronger Bruins team. Have they found a Kessel replacement…?
Habs re-sign Plekanec…The price is a little much and the pressure in one of the most unrelenting hockey markets is on, whose production is only expected to go uphill, along with his role on the team now that he got his big paycheck. Nonetheless, the Habs kept a player that played a vital part in their team’s success this year.
The Chicago/Atlanta blockbuster…In a nine-player deal, Atlanta receives Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, and Akim Aliu in exchange for a first and second round pick in this year’s draft (acquired from New Jersey), Marty Reasoner, Jeremy Morin, and Joey Crabb. The Thrashers certainly got a lot grittier and some legitimate skill in the deal, while the Blackhawks received two solid picks and cleared some much needed cap space. I say this was a balanced deal that made both teams happy.
Scott Niedermayer Retires…Like most Devils fans, I was hoping he’d return for at least one more season in New Jersey, but you can’t overlook everything he did for the organization. A shoe in hall of famer, but will we see No. 27 hang in the rafters at the Rock?
Sharks re-sign Marleau, Pavelski…I was convinced Marleau was gone come July 1st, but I guess he’s committed to San Jose. Pavelski is the future of this team, but the Sharks haven’t really improved or gotten any worse by signing these two…
Renney replaces Quinn as Edmonton’s head coach, Atlanta hires Craig Ramsay…Interesting moves. I was surprised by the Renney move, but he’s good at building team as he showed with the Rangers. Let’s see what Ramsay can do in Atlanta.
CBA extended, salary cap raised, 2010 Hall of Fame Class introduced…I guess the extension of the CBA is a good sign and the salary cap increase helps all teams. It’s even more encouraging considering it was expected to go down this year. This year’s Hall of Fame class seems to have been selected for the sake of getting overdue members in, not that it takes away from any of them. All are deserving and it’s made for another admirable group…a lot of outrage that Pat Burns wasn’t selected, which I have to fuel myself.
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Written by Mike Luciano