Is Jamie Langenbrunner available? Hmm. Depending on who you talk to in the Devils community, this is either a touchy subject or a topic of intense debate.
The Devils are running out of time to get under the $59.4 million salary cap and the Devil’s captain has been acknowledged as a possible candidate to be moved. A recent rumor spurring around the hockey world has the Colorado Avalanche interested in Langenbrunner, believing his skill and veteran leadership can be very beneficial to their organization and developing young nucleus. Entering a contract year with a $2.8 million cap hit makes Langenbrunner a very attractive asset if he truly is available, considering he’s a shoe in for fifty to sixty points. Yes we all know his contract features a no trade clause, giving him the final say in deciding where he goes, but believe me when I saw he’ll waive anything restricting his movement if Lou Lamoriello makes it clear he has to move on.
Over the past six months, there have been mixed views on the Devil’s captain. Some think he’s a valuable asset to the team and a bargain considering his projected point production and contract value, while others view him as an egotistical crybaby after the fit he threw when former head coach Jacques Lemaire made him a healthy scratch to rest him for the playoffs when he wanted to play a full season, along with his lackluster post season performance. I like to say I have an impartial stand on Langenbrunner. While I frown on how he reacted to being scratched at the end of the season and a non-factor when it truly mattered, there’s no denying his offensive capability and effectiveness in the right situation. Frankly, I believe the Devils possess the offensive depth that makes his contributions replaceable and while I’m not for or against trading Langenbrunner for whatever reason, I wouldn’t call it the end of the world if it happens.
As I’ve said in previous write ups, I feel the major issue amongst Devils fans that are reluctant to entertain the thought of seeing Langenbrunner, amongst other long time Devils dealt is more so emotional and sentimental than logical. Langenbrunner has been a huge part of this organization since being acquired via trade in 2002. He played a huge role in the Devil’s 2003 Stanley Cup championship and has been a consistent producer and clutch player for the Devils until recent years, according to some. Yes, he’s the Devil’s captain and could have signed for more when he had the chance in 2006. The Devils have experienced three consecutive late season breakdowns and forgettable first round exits under his reign but supporters and haters of Langenbrunner have to realize something.
That’s all in the past.
Going into this season, the focus should be how Langenbrunner can benefit this team the most on and off the ice as a player and that means exploring the benefits and effects of trading him. Since Langenbrunner would be a salary dump, the return won’t be substantial but that doesn’t mean he can’t be dealt for nothing. The Devils currently don’t have a second and third round pick going into this year’s draft, which I think Langenbrunner’s worth at the least and if the Devils do want something of value in return, why not seek a mid to top level prospect that can help the team down the road? Due to the circumstances, it’s likely the outcome of a potential deal involving Langenbrunner won’t work in the Devils favor as far as getting anything in return that can presently benefit the team. Having said that, I believe Langenbrunner, amongst most of the current cap casualty candidates are replaceable in terms of their role and projected output.
Obviously, the biggest impact a Langenbrunner trade would have is the fact that Lamoriello would be dealing the team’s captain right before the season starts. The effects this could have in the locker room are potentially catastrophic and could affect the team’s performance on the ice. Although Zach Parise is likely next in line to assume the “C”, I’m doubtful he’d immediately succeed Langenbrunner in this hypothetical yet possible scenario. After such a dramatic summer during which the team improved significantly, they’d also take a huge step back by having their captain dealt and going into the regular season without an identifiable leader, while the wounds of losing their previous one are still fresh. You could say it would be up to the team to overcome a loss of that magnitude but that’s another instance of something easier said than done.
While the leadership void will take time to fill, regardless of the potential successors, I believe the Devil’s have enough offensive depth to replace Langenbrunner’s production. Before training camp started, one of my concerns was the team’s lack of depth at right wing and it would seem trading Langenbrunner would further complicate those concerns. It looks like Kovalchuk is nestling nicely having switched to the right side on the first line with Parise and Zajac, while David Clarkson’s versatility enables him to play the same position on the third line. The spot Langenbrunner’s departure opens could give an opportunity for a player such as Mattias Tedenby. The Devil’s prospect was listed as a right wing going into camp and spent most of last year playing the same position. Although there’s skepticism about his readiness, there’s no denying the kid’s potential and skill set. Starting the season on a line with a play maker in Patrik Elias and power forward in Jason Arnott could benefit his development, not to mention his speed would add a complimentary element to that line. Brian Rolston’s likely not going to be affected by the Devil’s cap situation and could fit nicely in that slot as well. Could a reestablished top six role with a compatible center help Rolston rediscover his scoring touch? Unlikely but stranger things have happened. While both players could use another developmental year in the minors, Vladimir Zharkov and Nick Palmieri are natural right wingers and could be a last resort going into the season since both have had some degree of NHL experience and a mutual familiarity with coach John MacLean.